Warm and fuzzy aren’t words that immediately come to mind when one thinks about the work of director Jim Jarmusch. But that’s set to change thanks to the delightful and altogether wonderful Paterson.
Paterson centres on a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver), who lives in Paterson, and what is presumably a pretty standard week in his life. Paterson aspires to be a poet, or is a poet, depending on your outlook, and he idolises the now deceased Paterson poet William Carlos Williams. Like Paterson, William Carlos Williams had a day job – he was a medical practitioner – and Paterson’s writing style has a number of similarities with the work of Williams. Both are economical and observant, and their words seem almost stilted when read aloud. But there’s also a dreaminess to their work, as if they are making the mundane and ordinary transcendental with their words.
All of this is beautifully reflected in the filmmaking choices that Jarmusch makes, the form mirroring this approach in a way that feels utterly natural and not at all forced. Paterson, the film, both repeats in a rhythmic fashion whilst at the same time floating along, as we follow Paterson, the man, each day, working, writing, walking the dog, drinking at a bar and spending time with his incredibly sweet girlfriend, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani).
The pair have a simple life in a modest house, with a extremely characterful bulldog named Marvin. They are happy together in a way that feels entirely lived-in and real. Paterson at one point comments to someone – who is surprised his girlfriend doesn’t force him to get a smartphone – that she gets him. And he really seems to get her and all her odd quirks too, including a serious obsession she has with painting things in black and white.
There’s a moment in Paterson in which Laura lies on top of Paterson, hugging him in bed, in a way that looks odd because no-one in films ever hugs like that, but it also feels so utterly real and natural. Like the way two people in love actually behave with each other. It’s touching and so beautifully well observed. And Driver and Farahani are so fantastically naturalistic in their respective roles.
Paterson is filled with moments like this, with an extraordinarily nuanced script from Jarmusch, that fizzes and crackles in all the right places, whilst always drawing you in like a warm embrace. Good natured humour glides in and out of the film and all the while patterns repeat, as things slowly shift and change but ultimately stay the same.
The cinematography from the great Frederick Elmes is also crisp, sharp and wonderfully understated. The only flawed notes in Paterson are perhaps a few moments in which Jarmusch and editor Affonso Goncalves use dissolves to overlay images on top of each other whilst Paterson is reciting his poetry. The beautiful, almost Badalamenti-esque, score from Jarmusch’s band Sqürl carries the film through these sequences though, and they are very minor missteps in a film that is, for the most part, simply wonderful from beginning to end. A gorgeous, dreamy experience that you’ll never want to end.