After a career in film spanning nearly four decades, Jim Jarmusch is still creating fascinating portraits of ordinary human life and his latest film Paterson is no exception to this. The film centres around Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver moonlighting as a poet, and his loving relationship with his partner, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). The film closely follows their lives over the course of a week and the understated interactions they have with those around them. Each day Paterson drives his bus, writes poetry, returns home to Laura, and then finally pays a visit to his local bar whilst walking his dog, Marvin. This routine may initially appear plain and ordinary, but after witnessing it occurring multiple times, the beauty of it begins to materialise in front of the viewer. Contained within this simple life on screen are a number of wonderfully novel moments and relationships that express the unique nature of each life. Whether it is eavesdropping on an aspiring rapper practicing whilst doing his laundry, sharing poems with another young talented poet, or simply eating cheddar cheese & brussels sprout pie with somebody you love, each of these moments are unique to Paterson’s life.
Over the course of the film, a number of questions begin to surface. How exactly does one find meaning in life? The same way one would find meaning in the words of a poem? What is true love? Can that be expressed in a poem? By the end of the film it became clear that none of these questions matter, none of it matters. Becoming contented, whether through love, creativity, togetherness, is all that is needed. Choosing to embrace the small, ever quiet steps we take through life. Finding the beauty in the people around you and valuing the fleeting moments you have with them. Many of the interactions Paterson has throughout the film are structured in such a way that there is an expectation for them to escalate dramatically, but alas, they don’t. All in reminder of the comforting uneventfulness of life. Jarmusch celebrates the mundanity of humanity whilst simultaneously capturing the beauty of love & art.
The ethereal score, poetry readings, and cross dissolves that are present whilst Paterson writes his poems feel transcendental and build a moody atmosphere. These moments encourage the viewer to see the world the same way that Paterson does, with an eye searching for splendour in his magical dream-like world. The soothing, entrancing nature of these sequences draw you into Paterson’s world and have a lasting impact on the viewer even once the film has ended.
Søren Kierkegaard once wrote in his Works of Love, “I have not found a face so insignificant or so full of faults that I still could not discern in it a more beautiful side and discover something glorious”. This sentiment is encapsulated in Paterson, where Jarmusch takes a life considered insignificant by the terms of most other films and exposes its beautiful side and in turn, encourages us to do the same. Jarmusch expresses the notion that every life is simply a culmination of its own strange little moments and it is for exactly this reason that each life is so uniquely special.