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Film review: Paterson – Adam Driver plays a bus-driving poet in Jim Jarmusch’s sublime tale of everyday life

Jarmusch makes the mundane beautiful, with Paterson’s quiet observations of daily life as he drives his bus around Paterson, New Jersey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 May, 2017, 8:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 May, 2017, 8:00am

4/5 stars

Most films about writers feel compelled to find the drama behind the pen – whether it’s the narcotics of Naked Lunch, the suicide of Sylvia or the murder of Kill Your Darlings. Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson does nothing of the sort, and it’s all the better for it.

A fictional tale about a bus-driving poet named Paterson, who hails from Paterson, New Jersey, it might sound typically Jarmuschian at first glance: idiosyncratic, self-conscious hipster cinema. Yet there’s much more to Paterson, a touching film about living the creative life.

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Set over the course of a week, divided into daily chapters, it shows Paterson (Adam Driver) leading a very orderly existence. He gets up early every morning, goes to work, writes poetry before he starts his bus route, comes home, walks his dog Marvin, drinks a solitary beer in the neighbourhood bar and returns to his loving partner, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani).

So far, so unremarkable. Indeed, when it comes to earth-shattering moments, Paterson’s bus breaking down is about as far as it gets. But if this sounds dull or dour, it’s not. Jarmusch finds beauty in the everyday, as Paterson quietly observes the world around him (the poems he scribbles down are by real-life poet Ron Padgett).

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Driver, who is most famous now for playing Star Wars villain Kylo Ren, is ideally cast as a figure who seems slightly out of step with the digital age (he refuses to even back up his notebook of poems). Farahani’s character doesn’t quite escape her quirky shackles, baking cupcakes and practising other artisan crafts, but it’s a minor annoyance in a film that is arguably Jarmusch’s best work in a long time.

Delivered with humour and pathos, this is a literary film in more ways than one, with nods to the poetry of Paterson resident William Carlos Williams. Those who find pleasure in the written word will discover much to enjoy here.

Paterson opens on May 4

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