For Paterson – a film about a bus driver/poet named Paterson in Paterson, New Jersey – it’s fitting that form follows function. Paterson is primarily poetic. It’s a tone poem, capturing the sedate rhythms of everyday life. Paterson (Adam Driver) gets up in the morning, drives a bus, writes some poetry, eats dinner with his wife (Golshifteh Farahani), swings by his local for a beer with his dog. That’s essentially it. There’s no shocking twists or surprises in store; in fact, outside of a brief moment of violence, the film is resolutely undramatic.
If Paterson’s quiet poetry resonates with you, it’s an easy film to love. While I appreciated its slender revelations, I couldn’t help but crave something more. Perhaps it’s that the film feints at reality despite existing in an old-fashioned world little alike our own, bereft of modern technology and mores. That’s easily chalked up to poetic licence, though. Despite loving Jarmusch’s prior work – particularly Dead Man and Ghost Dog – though, Paterson feels comparatively slight; well-executed, well-acted but absent any political vitality, any heart-pounding truth beneath its subtle cinematic prose. My minor disappointment shouldn’t subtract from the film’s serene successes; how many artists can craft something so memorable from the mundane?