After a stint spent working on rather rock and roll projects — a music biopic, a Rolling Stones documentary and a drama about vampiric lovers — Jim Jarmusch is getting back into contemplative territory with Paterson. This quiet little movie follows a week in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver who shares a name with the New Jersey town in which he lives and works.
The beats of Paterson’s life are simple and familiar. He goes to work. He eats dinner with his wife (Golshifteh Farahani), a creative-type with a penchant for black and white whose only direction is every direction that grabs her attention. He walks the dog, Marvin, a scene-stealing bulldog who has no love lost for Paterson. During that walk, he stops off at the local bar for exactly one beer. He goes home. He does it all again. In snatches of spare time, he reads and writes poetry.
This fixation on the written word is his only indulgence or obsession outside of his love for his wife and his want to give her whatever she wants. It’s a quiet story about a quiet life. It’s the kind of movie where so little happens that a dog kicking a mailbox qualifies as an action sequence. And yet, in its way, Paterson works. A certain affection for this man sneaks up on you. You begin to find solace in the routines that bring him happiness and you hope good things for him. Adam Driver doesn’t really have a lot to do, but he manages to do rather a lot with the material. It’s not an astonishing performance, but it’s another in a long string of reminders that Adam Driver is an exceptional talent.
Admittedly, as a millennial female, I’m not the target audience for this movie. A cinephile I may be. And I’m familiar with Mr. Jarmusch’s catalog, but if there’s a deeper resonance, it didn’t hit me. I sensed that some of my fellow critics may have found that deeper level. I just saw a sweet little movie that muses on the little moments of profundity to be found in average lives. And that may not be enough to declare Paterson essential viewing, but that’s certainly enough to be getting on with.