Adam Driver plays a bus driver called Paterson in a city called Paterson in the new film Paterson. Yes it sounds boring, but unlike most bus journeys, it’s actually surprisingly enjoyable and doesn’t smell of wee (depending on where you see it).
Let’s start with an admission of guilt: I’ve never seen a Jim Jarmusch film until now; something I should rectify on the strength of this movie. Following a week in the life of a bus driver, who writes iffy poetry, Paterson is a film of quirky symmetry and offbeat charm. Low-key and almost entirely incident-free, the picture could hardly be more gentle if it was narrated by John Nettles. But underneath the idyllic home life of Paterson and his beautiful wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is an air of discontent, the faintly ominous score and quietly uncertain tone betraying the movie’s apparent optimism.
Like a poet, Jarmusch repeats shots, lines and symbols to echo the repetition and banality of everyday life, with circles, twins and monochrome motifs popping up again and again. Within that daily mundanity, Jarmusch finds profundity, humour and humanity. The film has a melancholy, European vibe, not unlike Amélie; at once down- and upbeat, with lovely attention to detail. In fact the movie is nothing but detail.
Driver is subtly brilliant as the benign bus driver; a sort of Kylo Zen. His gangly demeanour makes him seem perpetually out of place, perfect for this role, while his fantastically expressive face deserves an Oscar to itself. Farahani is also a joy to watch, while Marvin the scene-stealing dog is hilariously played by Nellie, posthumously winning the Palm Dog Award at Cannes. In terms of this year’s animals in cinema, she outperforms even Black Phillip in The Witch and Steven Seagull in The Shallows (and, presumably, Steven Seagal in the 7 films he’s made so far this year).
This is a great-looking and wonderfully poetic comedy/drama that delicately portrays the combination of love, unfulfillment and inspiration that makes up life. I’m still not entirely sure what it all means (or why it’s a 15), but I certainly enjoyed the ride.