The transforming power of composing poetry when your daily job is that of a bus driver.


Adam Driver with Golshifteh Farahani


In Jim Jarmusch's new film Paterson is both the name of the central character played by Adam Driver and the film's location and, while Paterson in New Jersey is a city, in cinematic terms it can be thought of as representing small town America. Jarmusch shows enormous affection for the place and for the people, all of which is conveyed vividly through the atmospheric colour photography of the legendary Frederick Elmes. Indeed, while the minimalistic approach may not appeal to all, anyone who admires the films of Jim Jarmusch will find much here not just to like but to love. However, there is a down-side too since this longish film (virtually two hours) fails to find a satisfactory conclusion as it traces the events of one week in the lives of its characters.


Jarmusch is on record as being an admirer of Japan's Ozu Yasujiro who believed in creating films out of what was recognisably everyday life. Even the distant sounds of passing trains that are heard here could be regarded as a homage to Ozu and, indeed, Paterson is a film that finds poetry in the everyday (thanks partly  to the visuals which incorporate many characteristic Jarmusch panning shots). Furthermore, making use of poems by Ron Padgett, it suggests that poetry and creative urges can transform the everyday by giving meaning and satisfaction to lives. So it is that the bus driver Paterson works to a standard pattern yet each day finds time to write poetry based on the city and on everyday details in tribute to his adored William Carlos Williams, the city's famed poet. Paterson's wife, Laura (the delightful Golshifteh Farahani), may be less talented than her husband, but she too favours the arts not only by encouraging her partner's writing but by aspiring to learn the guitar and to become a country singer (although her cookery explorations appear to be considerably less promising!).


Some viewers having a modern outlook may regard Laura as too subservient too her husband, but Driver and Farahani give themselves over entirely to the unshowy naturalism required which is so effective through being backed up by humour and an acute observational eye. The film feels like a true labour of love on Jarmusch's part with no concessions to contemporary taste in movies. Nevertheless, the later stages are problematic. A subsidiary thread about the failure of another relationship has a rather unpersuasive climax before leading too vaguely into a comparison between two kinds of loss. Even more importantly in a film that seeks to be so realistic, the conclusion, regardless of a typical Jarmusch touch in the casting involved, seems far too pat and contrived. A tragedy of a different order is revealed in the end credits indicating that Nellie, absolutely perfect in the role of the couple's screen-stealing pet bulldog, died not long after filming ended. Despite my major reservations about the film's later stages, much of Paterson is gold standard stuff for those who admire Jarmusch.




Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper, Cliff Smith, Nagase Masatoshi, Rizwan Manji, Nellie.


Dir Jim Jarmusch, Pro Joshua Astrachan and Carter Logan, Screenplay Jim Jarmusch, Ph Frederick Elmes, Pro Des Mark Friedberg, Ed Afonso Gonçalves, Music SQÜRL, Costumes Catherine George.


K5 International/Amazon Studios/Le Pacte/Inkjet-Soda Pictures.
113 mins. USA/Germany/France. 2016. Rel: 25 November 2016. Cert. 15.