After the two hours you will spend with Paterson, the new wonderful piece of work from acclaimed writer/director Jim Jarmusch, you will not look at the world in the same way. Within that moment in time, fleeting compared to how long you wish you could spend with both the film’s protagonist and indeed the town in which the film is set (Paterson, New Jersey), everything changes: a matchbox, innate and inconsequential to many, becomes an entity of love, life, and connections; dimensions become bigger and more profound and a waterfall, cascading down a rock face transports you to places that even it’s already beautiful form hasn’t yet. For this is the power of Paterson, and this one of the best films of the decade. We even awarded it our coveted Isaac Award for Best Picture earlier this year.
Adam Driver stars as the titular character, a quiet and stoic gentleman who is as blissfully happy as he could ever be despite the fact that everything on the surface seems dull and rather ordinary – he gets up around 6am every morning, kisses his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), gets dressed, eats his Cheerios out of a glass with a cup of coffee, leaves his house just as the sun is slowly cascading through his street. Taking the same walk to work everyday, he basks in the beauty of his little town before hopping aboard the local bus he drives all the while absorbing the stories he hears along the way before a quick beer after work at his favourite bar.
To many, this humdrum existence would drive them to the edge, angrily kicking and screaming that this wasn’t part of the “plan”, that they are meant for bigger and better things but for Paterson, it’s exactly what he wanted: he has a good job, love and the ability to create what he holds most dear – poetry. Inspired by the works of William Carlos Williams, Paterson dreams of following in his footsteps despite his hesitation in sharing his work with the world like all the best creative forces but encouraged by Laura, he starts to come around to the idea.
It may seem like a slow, overly melancholic tale without much to say, but in such surroundings is where Jarmusch thrives and may have produced the crowning achievement of a career spent telling stories that have embraced human existence, whatever the circumstance. Like his lead character, Jarmusch has a canny ability to see the beauty in all walks of life, finding moments that inspire and transcend and sharing them with the world to enjoy with fresh eyes and fresh perspective that makes us want to embrace it all. His quiet but wonderfully effective camerawork only heightens the enjoyment and immense satisfaction the film gives us – nothing showy or excessive here for it’s all about simplicity, capturing the world that makes even the unordinary feel extraordinary and gives the film a wistful exuberance and melancholy.
After his wonderful work in Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis and While We’re Young (as well as thatindie space movie…), Driver has been blessed to work with some of cinema’s most profound filmmakers, but in Jarmusch’s hands, he has not only never been better, but may have found his muse. His quiet, low-key but devastatingly beautiful performance is the polar opposite of the hate-filled Kylo Ren (for which he will now always be known) but no less powerful – his readings of the poems alone are enough to keep you entranced but his subtle, warm portrayal is devastatingly magnificent.
Whether you are a fan of Jarmusch going into this doesn’t really matter as within minutes you will be forever more. All of the filmmaker’s best work combine into one here for his most accomplished, heartfelt and exquisite film to date that is as transformative as it is reflective and one that is truly hard to resist. And with Driver as good as he may ever be, it’s easily one of the shining cinematic lights of recent times – wonderful, powerful, magical cinema.
Paterson is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD.