AFI Fest Review: Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Paterson’ is Poetry in Motion

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The films of Jim Jarmusch are just cool. They’re not movies that are in rush to get anywhere, if they go anywhere at all. Instead, these are movies that are casually late to the party, but they always bring great records and lively conversation. If you share the same interests as Jarmusch – great rock ‘n’ roll and literature – you’re like to be rapt by his films even if they don’t move with the same forward momentum of other movies. Jarmusch’s latest film, Paterson, continues the writer-director’s pet themes through the eyes of a poet bus driver. It’s a film that touches on the casual monotony of existence and how love and art can be welcome refuge from the daily routine. Paterson is funny and thoughtful, representing another high caliber piece of cinema that is relaxed in its approach, like so many other fine works from Jarmusch. This is one of the best films of 2016, though I’d caution that if you’ve never been fond of Jarmusch’s work there’s little in Paterson for you.

Day in and day out, Paterson (Adam Driver) carries out his weekly routine in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. He awakes alongside his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and then has breakfast and coffee before leaving walking to his job as a bus driver. Waiting to begin his shift, Paterson focuses on his passion of poetry, tinkering with his stanzas at every available opportunity. When his shift is over, Paterson has dinner with Laura and hears all of the various ideas and schemes she’s concocted in his absence. After dinner, Paterson takes their English bulldog Marvin for a walk, stopping at Shades Bar where he has a beer and exchanges banter with the barkeep Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley). Throughout his varied days, Paterson keeps a keen eye on the people he encounters, eavesdropping on conversations as he makes his round his bus.

Paterson follows its lead throughout his seven day week, with the weekend offering a respite from his routine. By no means is Paterson’s life that of soul-crushing monotony, though it certainly is repetitive. Whereas many filmmakers would make this repetition feel laborious, Jarmusch injects enough humor and wit into each day of the week that the movie flows as smoothly as bus that doesn’t make any stops. There’s something remarkable about the way that Jarmusch and cinematographer Frederick Elmes are able to make a static camera feel stylish with well-placed camera positions that provide a sharp juxtaposition between the reality and the ideals of Paterson, New Jersey.

Adam Driver gives a quiet performance that is more reliant on subtle gestures than wild emotionally fueled scenes. He’s subtlety often brings the comedic elements of Paterson to the forefront, such as his attempts to eat his girlfriend’s pie of cheese and Brussel sprouts. Conversely, Golshifteh Farahani is much more animated as Laura. She’s a character driven by her passions and her passions vary from day to day based on whatever dreams she may have had the night before. As much as it is apparent that these are two people with wildly different personalities, their mutual love is never in doubt and is emphasized by the poems that Paterson works on during his days.

Due to its subdued nature, I doubt that Paterson will earn the awards consideration it deserves (but that’s fine – art is not competition). Regardless, it’s another fine work from Jim Jarmusch that builds upon the themes that have dominated his work since Stranger Than Paradise. Paterson is a really funny movie that goes over the top with its wry sense of humor, often playing itself quiet. Jarmusch captures the essence of the working class artist with the character of Paterson, the kind of character that is similar in nature to real life working class artists like Harvey Pekar and Charles Bukowski without the rough edges of their personalities that sometimes made them extremely unlikable. Paterson is cinema as a slice of life, understanding that most of us trapped in routines with outlets that allow us to release the tension and pain that mounts each and every day. Few slices of life are as comically pleasing as Paterson, but that’s just what Jim Jarmusch does.


  • Overall Score


Another stellar work from writer-director Jim Jarmusch, Paterson is led by a great lead performance by Adam Driver and encapsulates the way we struggle to find an outlet amidst the routine of day-to-day life.

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