Paterson is a quiet, beautiful love story. It depicts a week in the life of a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) and his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). They live in the town of Paterson, New Jersey, which William Carlos Williams immortalized in his poetry. In his spare time, our Paterson writes poetry, mostly love poems about his wife. He writes down his poems wherever he can: in a small cupboard in the basement, in the bus before he starts work. He derives his inspiration from life around him so that the subtle rhythm of an average day becomes the beat of his poem. When Laura tells him that she dreamed they had twins, he starts noticing paired things. Through his poetry, we glimpse into what he sees and thinks.
What I enjoyed about this movie was watching how art is created and edited. We don’t see the creative process itself in movies. Rightly so: it’s boring. But Jarmush (the director) is an expert at nuanced storytelling. As Paterson walks or drives the bus, he creates fragments of his poetry, lines that are then written on the screen accompanied by his voice-over. (Normally, I find voice-overs annoying. Sparely done in this movie, they add to the narrative flow.) Paterson goes over his lines several times until they become the powerful final product.
The movie also works because the artist himself is not a dramatic figure. He is an ordinary, soft-spoken man. He doesn’t really understand his wife but he loves her passionately. Their normality makes their love story all the more profound. There are no cheesy, Hollywood displays of affection. Instead, they display their love for each other in small intimate gestures, in their support for each other, and in the few moments of lingering before they leave the bed in the morning.
In this sparse movie, everything works harmoniously. The fascinating camera work with long, still shots, the tranquil scenery, the quiet of a domestic life. The regulars at the bar where Paterson has his daily beer. The black and white cupcakes Laura makes for the Farmer’s market and the black and white movie they see together. The dog. You don’t need to love poetry to enjoy this movie. Paterson is a feel good movie. It is a contemplation on the loveliness of ordinary days.