Every year I watch many new films, and like the majority I mostly aim to see the new blockbusters. Sure, every now and then I’ll treat myself to something small or independent in nature, but it’s mostly the blockbuster. With the bombastic action, gut-punching laughs, quotable dialogue, big stars, three-act structures and the latest in special effects. I love blockbusters. But, like eating too much cake, they can become just a drone and so I do find it nice to break the monotony with something quite different. When something like Paterson comes along, it’s like a breath of fresh air; a pleasant break before I return to the adrenaline-fuel once again.
Paterson is about Adam Driver is a bus driver. He aspires to be a poet and writes down his poems in a secret note-book in his spare time. He is married to a beautiful woman who has an artistic eye, dreams of being a country singer and has plans to sell cupcakes for a living. And, that’s it. We follow these two people over a week and become familiar with their daily routine and mundane lives. Considering that the plot itself has been summed up that quickly then surly this must be a character drama, entirely focused on the people at hand. And that is exactly what Paterson is.
Paterson is a film that almost feels like it celebrates the mundane, just the day to day lives of ordinary people. And, it really succeeds at it. When the film started, I did wonder if I was going to be bored throughout this film, if there was going to be that one scene that just wouldn’t end or even a bunch of scenes that just padded the film out. But none of that happened. I was never bored and the film felt like the perfect length, without wasting a single moment. That is accomplished by the fact that Paterson and his wife are such interesting characters.
As a couple they feel perfect, even though they are both imperfect people. Paterson loves to write poems and idolizes other poets, clearly wanting to be one himself. Yet he constantly puts himself down and keeps his poems to himself. When he writes them we do hear what he’s writing and we even see it come up as text on the screen, but he never shares it with anyone else in the film. Even his wife is kept in the dark with his writing, although he is more open to her than anyone else. As a writer myself I can completely sympathise with his feelings on the matter, like anything in life it can be hard to find courage in your skills and the drive to push forward with them. He tends to mumble a lot and is quick to agree with others, but he never feels weak or pitiful for it. He’s just a normal guy like any you would see on a sunny day. And his wife clearly aims a little higher than what she can achieve. Although it is made very obvious that, despite her dreams and creativity, she is very bored at home. Again, a very relatable feature for a person to have.
This is helped out greatly by the performances. Adam Driver, who was very impressive as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, really impressed me here. In many respects this is a polar opposite to Kylo Ren; that being a slightly over-the-top villain in a big blockbuster franchise, while Paterson is a subdued and charming character in a small independent film. He and his wife have excellent chemistry, they feel like any couple out there today. And it really is the realism that sells this film. Director Jim Jarmusch really knows how to capture the mundane without making it feel pretentious. It is very easy to make such a film as Paterson just another art-for-the-sake-of-art film, but I never felt manipulated by it. I only felt like I was seeing a week of a couples life. There is a lot to say when direction is so good that you hardly notice it at work. The cinematography and editing are on point and never fail to sell the emotion of the film. I will say that the music was an odd choice however. I don’t know, it sounded like something from a horror film or thriller at times, it was just really out of place.
I can see a number of people not liking Paterson for the simple fact that it is very simple. Nothing really happens in it and there is no three-act structure. But what I found was a very charming and very nice feel-good movie. If I could sum it up in one word it would be: pleasant. I definitely recommend it, whether for the change or just because it is so nice. It’s got lovable characters and some good laughs, and more than enough to keep you entertained throughout it. Proving that life and poetry definitely come hand-in-hand.
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