By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Jim Jarmusch’s latest film tells the story of a humble artist who creates his work on his own terms, and seems to relish his struggle to create it regularly. I cannot think of another filmmaker more appropriate for telling this story than Jarmusch, an artist known for making independent movies on his own terms and not for the sake of fame and fortune. Jarmusch’s simple and introspective style that regularly flavors his work is absolutely perfect for telling the story of a poet who takes his time to study life and behold the simple beauties that exist within seemingly ordinary settings. Paterson may present the story of a different kind of artist, but an artist quite similar to Jarmusch nevertheless, and one who reflects the filmmaker’s approach to life and work.
On the surface, Paterson (Adam Driver) seems to have a very dull and uninteresting life. He comes across as a regular Joe who works as a bus driver, following his same route day after day. Some people would grow tired, bored and frustrated with this kind of repetitive, unremarkable job, but not Paterson. The young driver is an artist at heart and actually seems to enjoy driving around his town watching and listening for beauty in the locations he visits and among the passengers and other people he witnesses. Whenever he has a moment to himself, Paterson takes the time to write about what he witnesses in his poetry book. Though the man has never been published as an artist, he truly loves writing his poetry, but is reluctant to share it with anyone other than his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani).
Jarmusch’s Paterson is a true love letter to artists everywhere. Regardless of the particular type of medium portrayed in the movie, Jarmusch honors and celebrates the hearts, souls, and minds of all artists who long to capture lightning in a bottle. The filmmaker has made one of his most beautiful and touching films that will not only appeal to artists, but those who can appreciate the purposes and roles of art in people’s lives. It wonderfully portrays the feelings and thoughts of artists who sometimes struggle to create their work amid the chores and requirements of the real world and some of the obstacles that artists must face from both the outside, as well as from within. Jarmusch also incorporates the simple joys and natural humor that often adds flavor and zest to the blandness of day-to-day routines and rituals.
In keeping with Jarmusch’s minimal approach, the film has a small cast with most of the focus and development on the two lead characters Paterson and his girlfriend Laura. Actress Golshifteh Farahani brings much zeal and joy to her character and one can easily see why Paterson loves her so much. Her character serves as a yin to Paterson’s yang. Laura has a bit of a more eccentric and unpredictable nature while Paterson seems to almost need a rigid schedule to his day, despite being an artist. Adam Driver delivers a perfectly nuanced performance as the title character. He is able to convey realistic feelings and emotions, but in a restrained and pensive way. Driver’s soft and soothing voice perfectly captured the quiet soul of the character who often says little, but wants to watch others, listen to others, and silently experience moments in life.
I have never met Jim Jarmusch, but I get the strong feeling that the Paterson character essentially represents the filmmaker and the movie is semi-autobiographical in many ways. This character’s approach to life and work feels very much like the director’s approach to most of his films, especially that of his first film Permanent Vacation. Granted this style certainly won’t appeal to all audiences, but not all great art does. Fans of Jarmusch and his style of filmmaking should absolutely adore this movie. As one can already tell, I too fall under this category and truly it adore it for all of its simple beauty and truth.