Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmucsh’s latest film is almost a meditation. We move ever so quietly through the lives of Paterson, a bus driver and would be poet (Adam Driver) and his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahiani) who paints their apartment curtains, cupboards, furniture, in fact anything she can lay her hands on, in bold black and white designs. This is also the only repertoire in her wardrobe … and the cupcakes she bakes and lovingly ices. Paterson writes poetry that so far hasn’t seen the light of day. His words fill the screen as he scribbles in his notebook. The poems are the real life works of Rod Padgett and were written specifically for the film.
The gentle couple are portrayed with a quiet sensuality. They exist inside a bubble of quirky harmonious love and devotion. She encourages him to write and publish his poems and he in turns celebrates her childlike exuberance and perhaps fantastical forays into new hobbies and culinary experiments.
Over the next week we follow Paterson and Laura through their daily lives.
We witness them asleep in various embraces and early morning tenderness. We watch Paterson rise each morning, eat his breakfast, make his way to work, interact with work mates. He eavesdrops on his passenger’s conversations before arriving home where his wife shows off her latest project, they eat and then he walks the dog (who almost steals the show, and I’m not a dog person so that’s saying something). Each night he visits his local bar and communes with a cast of Jarmusch flavoured oddballs that populate the groovy, dimly lit, music drenched nightspot.
Then we start again the next day.
As things progress their lives are revealed to us more fully and we develop an intimate relationship with them both and their oddball but sweet marriage, careers, dreams and aspirations,
He seems Zen like in his acceptance, even wondrous, at his wife’s artistry. He’s a quiet guy, soft spoken, even tempered and emotionally contained.
Laura on the other hand, is exuberant, alive and full of wonder and enthusiasm.
I became very involved in their relationship. Jarmusch is so clever like that. I think he must be a people person, maybe not a social creature himself, but a true observer and translator of the emotional and psychic terrain of human beings. His characters are always so fully formed.
I’m unconsciously playing therapist while I’m watching them.
Is she controlling? Or is he too subservient? Is she flighty or a free spirit? Is she self absorbed and self indulgent or genuinely an artistic, whimsical child-woman who wants to throw herself into whatever takes her fancy in the name of self expression? Is he repressed or at peace with the world and a closet Buddhist? Is his stillness an indication of an inner contentment or a symptom of emotional disconnect? Early in the film we see a photo of him in a Marine uniform but this is never expanded upon, except for a scene where he effortlessly disarms a jilted lover about to shoot himself.
Adam Driver’s star is on the rise and he’s compelling. He’s not exactly handsome, but he has a charm and looks like he could be a rock star from Detroit.
Farahani is breathtakingly beautiful and her adoration and wish for him to share his work with the world is equal parts enchanting and heart warming.
At 118mins it was maybe a little too long. And Farahani’s character was perhaps a tad too wiggy, and I doubt a less beautiful person would have held my interest. She’s mesmerising so you’re happy to watch her.
In the last ten minutes conflict shows up when the pooch discovers and decimates Paterson’s poetry book and Jarmusch resolves this in a fascinating unexpected way. Perfectly.
The resolution is both tidy and expansive.
I have no idea where Jim Jarmusch’s spirituality is directed, if at all, but if I reflect on my favourite Jarmusch flicks, Dead Man, Coffee & Cigarettes, One Night on Earth or Stranger Than Paradise it seems there’s a subtle conversation between his characters on life and it’s meaning or lack thereof.
As usual he as made a film that is beautiful to watch and full of clues to his own love of music and the more colourful inhabitants of planet earth: the characters that populate the bar are typically quirky and intriguing: the young girl that Paterson chats with about poetry is old beyond her years and full of intelligence and grace, the workmate who shares his woes each day is classic and the passengers on the bus are gorgeously mundane, funny and riveting including a variety of twins that appear in transit which alludes back to one of his wife’s dreams.
Jarmusch makes action films in the realm of the emotional and creative worlds. I wonder if he is a fan of John Cassavettes, my hero, who I think was the master at putting on screen what was going on inside people’s minds and hearts, capturing humour amongst crisis and finding beauty in what some might think ugly.