By: Debbie Wang
“There once was a poet named Paterson
He did what most people asked of him
He lived with his wife and he lived with his dog
And he also drove a bus in Paterson”
– An Ode to Paterson
It seemed only fitting to start this review off with a short poem to explain the plot, or lack thereof, of this film. You see, not only is the film about a poet, but also the film itself is a poem in it of itself. Jim Jarmusch directs Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani to perfection in this beautiful moving poem. In the hands of another director, this could have been a train wreck. But with Jarmusch’s soft touch and love for reflective storytelling, the film is transcendent.
The film follows a week in the life of Paterson (Driver), who lives in Paterson, New Jersey. Following in the footsteps of his namesake, he is also a poet like William Carlos Williams, who wrote a poem titled Paterson. We see the routine of his life from day to day: wake up, kiss his wife, go to work, come home, walk the dog, go to the bar, repeat. He’s always finding time to write poetry, but is too nervous and timid to share his poetry with the world no matter how hard Laura tries to convince him.
In Jarmusch’s poem, each day is its own stanza with similar themes that unite all of them. The routine of his life provides the structure of each stanza, and variations in the themes help build out the narrative. From Monday to Thursday, we are simply just watching Paterson’s life. It’s quaint, simple, and without frills. But Friday is where things start to turn. In the volta of his week, Paterson’s life veers from his normal routine and when his routine is disrupted, we see Paterson grasping for inspiration for his poetry.
If you don’t find poetry interesting, and if you prefer your movies to have a plot with a clear beginning, middle and end, then Paterson is not the film for you. But if you are a devout Jarmusch fan and love basking in simplicity and beautiful story telling, then Paterson is a masterpiece.
What did you think of Paterson? Let us know in the comments below. Paterson is out now in limited theaters across Canada.
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