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Film Review: Paterson

Friday 25 November 2016

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The latest film by prominent independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, ‘Paterson’ explores the beauty of the everyday. The film is an intimate portrait of Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and unpublished poet who, funnily enough, lives in Paterson, New Jersey, with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). We see a week of Pateron’s life play out on screen, with everyday following the same routine: he wakes up, goes to work, fits in some writing before starting the bus, listens to his passenger’s conversations, writes on his lunch break at his favourite waterfall lookout, comes home to have dinner with Laura, before taking their dog for a walk and visiting his regular bar, where he chats with the bartender and patrons.

This is a quiet, low-key, and tender film, exploring the everyday lives of everyday people and their creative passions. It’s about the acceptance of life and being content in your creative pursuits; Paterson and Laura have dreams, but are not struggling to force them into action. Instead they embrace life around them and lead a very happy life together. Laura spends her days painting, making things, designing, decorating, baking, and learning the guitar, at which she quickly makes progress. She uses her creativity to make odd bits of money, such as selling her cupcakes at the farmer’s market to much success, and is always cheerfully considering different career paths stemming from her passions.


The beauty of Pateron’s writing is matched by the film’s visuals, which see his poetry appear on screen in his scrawling handwriting, overlaying shots of the city. Despite his talent, Paterson doesn’t share the same confident ambition. He writes purely for himself, only sharing his poems with Laura, although she constantly encourages him to at least make copies. He finally agrees, but only imagines photocopying a few and handing them out. Poetry is just another part of his life, part of the foundation of it and part of him; it is something he does naturally, embedded in his existence. Although he takes his poetry seriously and works hard, he does not intend to become a professional writer and transform his life, for he is already happy with how things are. However, there is a scene where something terrible happens to his ‘secret notebook’ of writing, which is utterly devastating and heart wrenching.

Paterson and Laura have a completely happy, supportive marriage. Their relationship is portrayed with such warmth and tenderness: sleepy conversations and cuddles in the morning, always encouraging each other’s dreams, and Paterson penning a love poem for his wife. He tells his friends at the bar that Laura understands him really well, and it’s true; they understand, accept, support, and love one another in a way that is rare to see on screen, with little conflict. Golshifteh Farahani plays Laura with lovely, organic enthusiasm, energy, and charm, while Adam Driver gives another stellar performance as the gentle, quiet, and philosophical Paterson.


Coincidences and repetition seem to follow Paterson throughout the film; after Laura tells him about a dream she had, he keeps seeing pairs of identical twins wherever he goes, one of whom is a little girl who also has a secret notebook where she writes poems. Furthermore, many people seem to say the same sentiments to him, and in a later scene, he meets a Japanese man who tells him about his favourite poet, William Carlos Williams, who is from the city, wrote a collection named after it, and is Paterson’s favourite too. This is also a gently funny film, with the reoccurring appearance of twins, humorous one-sided exchanges with a colleague who checks in on him every morning, and numerous amusing conversations that Paterson either overhears as bus driver, or partakes in with locals at the bar. Paterson, clearly fascinated by human beings, observes the weird things people talk about, and the peculiar things they say. ‘Paterson’ is an utter delight, as poetic as its central character’s writing, and a charming, quietly compelling portrait of a couple’s simple, happy life together, exploring the poetic beauty of the everyday.

Watch the trailer for ‘Paterson’ below:

‘Paterson’ is released in UK cinemas today, Friday 25th November.