Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Nellie
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Running Time: 118 mins
Paterson is an American film about a man working as bus driver in a small town, and the highs and lows of his daily life over the course of a week.
This is something a little different. While Paterson isn’t the film that’s caught the most global attention since its release, it’s an impressively down-to-earth and fresh appreciation of the smaller things in life, and looking at how even the most ordinary and seemingly unremarkable stories have the depth and heart to be just as interesting as anything that the most hyperbolic of screenwriters could come up with.
Given its somewhat unique nature, I think it’s best I first describe what Paterson exactly is. In effect, it’s a film where nothing really happens, following an ordinary man through his ordinary daily life over the course of an ordinary week. Unlike most stories that show the ordinary becoming remarkable, there’s nothing about Paterson as a character that make him more exceptional than you or me, living a normal life where nothing really goes wrong, passing the time by writing personal poetry, going to work , and coming home everyday to a loving partner.
That may sound pretty boring from the outside, but Paterson is such a deliberately unremarkable film that it is in exactly that rather remarkable. Rather than showing the growth of a typical, everyday man into someone spectacular, this film emphasises that the little pleasures in life, whether it be poetry, a strong romantic relationship, or anything else, are themselves just as remarkable, and if you really cherish them, your life can be just as fulfilling as any.
What’s even more interesting about the film is that, though its fresh approach to slice-of-life storytelling, Paterson shows you how typical Hollywood storytelling has conditioned you to expect the big and the dramatic, when in reality that just isn’t the case most of the time. In Paterson, there are all the same plot elements as normal, and therefore seemingly the same flashpoints for high drama, but it doesn’t turn out that way. Sometimes things go wrong, but they get fixed without too much uproar. Otherwise, everything about his life is perfectly fine, which makes for a really strange watch as you continue to expect the big twist of fate that every other film in history has given you.
Following on from the whole film’s wonderful celebration of the ordinary, we have to talk about Adam Driver’s excellent performance as Paterson himself. While the film may sound pretentious from its premise, Driver embodies its sincerity in focusing on an ordinary man’s life, with a performance that’s never even in the slightest bit showy, but instead very genuine and likable throughout, bringing a very calming and level-headed central presence to reinforce the film’s unique atmosphere.
It’s fair to say that Paterson is a very original film, and successfully so at that, but that doesn’t quite mean it’s perfect. Above all, I really wasn’t taken by the film’s central focus on Paterson’s love for poetry. Of course, it’s a necessary element to show that an ordinary man working as a bus driver still appreciates high culture, and even has talent as well, but I still didn’t find myself particularly moved by the poetry side of the story, something that often even took away from the wonderfully normal and unremarkable story at hand.
Overall, however, I really liked Paterson. It’s deliberately a film that shows nothing special, yet in that it is so special and so memorable. A calm, unique and still riveting watch throughout, featuring a great lead performance from Adam Driver, and an overall very fresh take on storytelling, Paterson is really worth the watch, which is why I’m giving it a 7.7.