[Note: This is our re-post of our review of Paterson from the Cannes Film Festival; the film enters limited release December 28]
Anticipation was high for Jim Jarmusch‘s follow up to Only Lovers Left Alive, and though it feels very different than any of the auteur’s previous films, Paterson does not disappoint. Come its December release date it will feel like a cozy cup of tea.
Paterson (Adam Driver) was named after his birthplace, Paterson, New Jersey, where he still lives. Leading a monotonous but comfortable life, he works as a bus driver by day and writes poetry in his secret notebook during his lunch breaks. He dreams of becoming the next local poetry hero, like his main inspiration William Carlos Williams or Allen Ginsberg. His kooky girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is equally ambitious, though she lacks dedication, dreaming of owning her own cupcake business and country music stardom at the same time.
Jarmusch takes us on an existentialist ride on the bus for an entire week, each new day bringing a different story. And many stories are told on the bus. Paterson overhears fragments of comical exchanges between commuters. It is the stuff that writers dream about, and it could inspire a hundred poems. But he prefers to work on his love poem to Laura revolving around matches. They are both so supportive of one another. While she encourages him to release his poetry to the world, he supports every whim and fancy new project she comes up with.
Obsessed with black-and-white and polka dots, she spends her days painting everything in these colors and motifs. She also has a fine collection of art on her living room wall of her English bulldog, Marvin, that Adam has to walk every night. He always meets new people on these nocturnal promenades—nice gangsters, wannabe rappers—before heading to the local bar full of singular characters. At least, they don’t make a list of their woes like Paterson’s co-worker, an Indian immigrant who answers a simple “How are you?” with a list of complaints, problems and other family calamities.
With brilliant comic timing, Farahani excels in her role as the eccentric but loving girlfriend to a guy with infinite patience. Right when you think he’s going to lose it, he smiles at her. (Even when she serves him a new pie whose recipe gives me nausea just thinking about it).
Like the bus, life is sometimes a bumpy ride. Jarmusch is not trying to convey a message in Paterson, but he’s cultivating poetry with a very unique texture. And while the pace may sometimes feel as slow as the bus’s commute through Paterson, it is nevertheless a sublime slice of life in the city of bards.