Beauty is often found in the smallest details. -A tag line for the movie
This indie film by writer/director Jim Jarmusch shows us a week in the life of a young man, Paterson (Adam Driver), living in Paterson, NJ. He lives a routine life, even waking up at exactly the same time almost every day w/o an alarm. He eats Cheerios for breakfast, walks to work (carrying a lunchbox packed by his gf), has a chat w/ co-worker Donny (Rizwan Manji- an Indian-American character actor), then starts his shift driving the #23 bus. After work, Paterson eats dinner w/ gf Laura (Golshifteh Farahani- an Iranian actress now based in Paris) and listens to the things she has done in her day. He takes Laura’s English bulldog (Marvin) out for a walk to the neighborhood bar; he has one beer and chats w/ the barkeeper, Doc (veteran character actor Barry Shabaka Henley). Two other regulars at the bar are going through a break-up; Marie (Chasten Harmon- in her film debut) says it is over, but her ex-bf Everett (William Jackson Harper from Midsommar) says he wants her back. Laura mentions a dream in which she had twins; Paterson encounters twins throughout his week. Paterson’s keen observances are the basis for the poems he writes (in his secret notebook) whenever he has a spare moment. Something that happens this week has the potential to knock his world into a tailspin.
Laura: Did you ever hear of the old Italian poet called… Petrarch? Is that it?
Paterson: Mmm, Petrarch. He perfected the sonnet.
Laura: I read online that one of his early books of poems was called The Secret Book, just like yours.
Paterson: I didn’t know that! You read that. You just happened upon it online.
Laura: And also that he wrote all his love poems to a beautiful girl called… ta da! Laura!
A woman named Laura was the muse of Petrarch, BUT she wasn’t his wife and they had limited contact, if any at all. The poems here came from Ron Padgett, one of Jarmusch’s favorite contemporary poets, who agreed to write the poems for the film and let Jarmusch use some of his pre-existing work as well. Driver underwent training to get the commercial driver’s license (CDL)! He wanted to be able to be on “auto pilot” while driving the bus; this also meant the film could feature more authentic footage, opening up for a variety of shots. He was taught over a period of 3 mos. on the busy streets of Queens, passing the test a week before filming. On the bed stand, there is a photo of a younger Paterson, during his military service; this is an actual picture of Driver from his time in the Marines. The man working out a rap song in the laundromat is Cliff Smith (AKA Method Man), a member of Wu Tang Clan. Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman both made their debuts in the Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012); they’re the college kids on the bus discussing anarchy.
Everett: You love somebody, more than anything in the whole damn world. You… worship her. You don’t wanna be alive without her, and… she says she doesn’t want you. You’re just… dirt.
Doc: Damn brother! You should be an actor.
Everett: [nods] I am… an actor.
[Paterson turns his head away and tries not to laugh.]
Paterson is a character-driven film; the theme (as Jarmusch commented) is the “poetry in everyday life.” The first thing I noticed was the gentle/loving/respectful relationship between Paterson and Laura. We don’t know how long they’ve been together, BUT they’re a warm and compatible couple. There is great chemistry between Driver and Farahani (who has been acting since she was a teen in Iran); you feel like they’re in love! Paterson is a good listener, while Laura is more of a talker. She has many interests: decorating/painting (esp. the black/white aesthetic), playing guitar (so maybe she could be a country singer), and baking cupcakes (to sell at the farmers market). Laura wants Paterson to share his poems w/ the world, BUT he’s hesitant. As Jarmusch noted at Cannes Film Festival, he put aspects of the actors into their characters. Also, he wanted to show that ordinary people (w/ 9-5 jobs) can choose to be creative. I liked the ending scene between Paterson and the visiting Japanese poet. If you need a quiet, low stakes, and unique film to watch- check this out!
Independent cinema is more thoughtful, delicate. While Western blockbusters can have their own kind of delicateness, it’s not delicate enough. You have to be ready to compromise to enter that field. I will do so only if it’s worth it. -Farahani on her preference for indie films
I had to tell people I was not born with a scarf because I came out of Iran. People think you came out of your mother with a scarf; they can’t imagine that the scarf is not stuck to your head. -Farahani on assumptions re: women from Muslim countries
Farahani is the 1st star (after the 1979 Iranian revolution) to act in a major Hollywood production: Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies (2008) w/ Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. After the role of Aisha (a nurse/love interest of DiCaprio’s character), she was banned from leaving Iran in February 2008, on her way to London to make a screen test for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010). This was only reported 6 mos later when Farahani could leave the country. She has been based in Paris for many years and speaks fluent English, French, and Farsi. At the Cannes press events, Farahani spoke French when journos weren’t comfortable w/ English. I noticed that several of her films are available on Amazon Prime; I may check out soon.
 The movie is just a character study of a gentle and honest man just finding his own path through life, one week at a time. The script and situations also provide an appropriate amount of humor.
 The movie is meditative, contemplative, and soothing. An offbeat treat, as per usual, for Jarmusch, and lovers of art, poetry, and low-key expressionism are likely to like this diversion from the cinema of the everyday.
Others, will need patience and acquire an appreciation for the minimal.
 Driver was a really good casting choice. …I quite like him as an actor and he has that whole subtlety thing going for him as he really shines when playing rather quiet characters.
 Paterson is one of those movies that I think captures something inherently true about the discontentment present in most everyone’s life, whether or not they want to admit it’s there. Routines aren’t necessarily bad, and one can build a quite content and even intermittently happy life out of simple pleasures, but it’s the rare person who doesn’t spend a good portion of his/her life wondering how much happier he/she might have been if she had taken it in a different direction.
-Excerpts from IMBD reviews