Film Score: 5 out of 5 (Perfect)
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver who spends his spare moments conjuring up poetry, drawing his inspiration from the sleepy New Jersey town that bears his name. The film is a week in the life of Patterson, as he wrestles with his unwillingness to reveal his poetry to the world.
Paterson is an ode to the vibrancy of small-town America, tinged with nostalgia for a past way of life. Through the shared name, the protagonist is the embodiment of the town, warm, charming, and happy to stand apart from the modern world. Driver’s character is from a different time, sporting a blue collar each day and a metal worker’s lunch box. He seems drawn from the idealised version of America’s working class of the 1950’s, just like the town around him. The plot satirises the generic tropes of Hollywood films, building up certain scenes to fit the formula of gun-fights and explosions, only to return to reality. These scenes are when Paterson is at its most endearing, proudly stating to the audience that an enjoyable story can be grounded in the everyday.
Paterson is not a prodigal poet who reels off soliloquises. Internal monologues reveal his repeated attempts to create new poems, while the camera over imposes his bus routine with images of where he finds inspiration. This overlapping of images is a credit to Frederick Elmes, the film’s cinematographer, as it smoothly conveys us between the town and Paterson’s thoughts. Witnessing Paterson struggle with his art adds to the realism of the film and makes the character even more likeable.
The film is a visual delight, comprised of a small range of scenes at certain locations which are repeated throughout the week in Paterson’s life. Every frame, from when Paterson wakes up next to his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), to his beer at Shade’s Bar after work, are composed with a beautiful geometry. The film’s colour scheme is a clash between Paterson’s wardrobe of black, blue, and white set against the black and white geometric patterns worn by his wife Laura. Through colour, composition, and montages, we see the town and the world through Paterson’s eyes. This clash of colours adds to the film’s composition, bestowing a simplistic beauty to every scene.
The film’s motif of pairs blends with the montage between Laura and Paterson’s respective routines, revealing their clashing creative approaches. Paterson is focused upon his poetry, yet he is stuck in a loop of self-doubt, mimicking his repetition of the same bus route. The camera cuts from Paterson’s bus route to Laura continuously reinventing her wardrobe and the house’s décor, seemingly uncaring of potential public criticism of her new ideas.
Both Driver and Farahani are utterly convincing as husband and wife, interacting with one another with the intimate affectations of a loving couple. All the actors involved in Paterson deliver a robust performance that brings life to their characters. My personal favourite was William Jackson Harper in the role of Everett, a local at Shade’s Bar who is highly strung, love-sick and unpredictable. Harper is able to render Everett sympathetic although his behaviour could easily be perceived as selfish and immature.
The film, from its acting to its cinematography, is a masterpiece which blurs the distinctions between the town, the poet, reality and imagination; culminating in a life-affirming statement from Jim Jarmusch that inspiration and beauty surround us in the mundane.
I hope that Amazon studios, which financed Paterson, will continue to support independent films which stray from the generic film formula.
By Saul Shimmin
Target audience: Art-house cinema lovers, Jim Jarmusch fans and older audiences who wish to watch something a bit different.
For the trailer see below: