Adam Driver is Paterson; both his moniker and that of Paterson, New Jersey where the film is set. The point is not lost, nor thankfully overstated in Director Jim Jarmusch’s delightfully introspective comedy.
Paterson is your small town man – he is everyone. Portrayed by Driver with such requisite calm and invariability that you could see any number of your own wants and desires reflected in the daily machinations of the bus driver and secret poet – himself a palimpsest on which any casual viewer can see their own equivocal aspirations personified by Driver’s colourful yet blank slate.
Not to contend that Paterson himself lacks dynamism; far from it, there’s just enough background hinted at to paint a vivid, none too Arcadian picture of his life – a fascinating character who regularly interacts with a motley crew of figures, too intriguing in their own right but still painted with brushstrokes broad enough to be distinctly relatable. Taking no small measure of pride in their town, a bartender extolls on its virtues and famous sons while Paterson listens on each night, interacting with barflies, blow-ins and irregular commuters on his daily drive, including, hilariously, the two now fast-growing kids from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom spouting anarchic rhetoric on Paterson’s public transport.
Most heart-warming of all is Paterson’s relationship with his partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and their dog, the three sharing a fond dynamic with Laura to no end encouraging Paterson to publish the poems he meditates on each day and shows sparingly to his loved ones or randoms he meets during his daily grind. Watching Paterson is a jolting, cathartic experience for anyone ever afraid of success or recognition and yearning for it in equal measure; Paterson’s poems themselves as touching as Jarmusch’s and his lead’s erudite treatment of its ungratified subject.
Following a fairly predictable course to a great extent, even the ending’s heavy-handed symbolism is not a detractor to this delectably contemplative treasure as Paterson unfurls its powerful yet simple abstractions in a story that could have been a lot less engaging if not for Jarmusch’s pervasively mirthful tone.
Something that can be enjoyed by audiences ad infinitum, Driver has continued on his incredible trajectory with this absolute gem of a film.
Paterson is screening as part of the Sydney Film Festival on Thursday 16 June and Wednesday 22 June, for tickets head to the Festival website