“Paterson” is about a bus driver named Paterson in Paterson, New Jersey; it’s perfectly convenient. Every day, Paterson wakes up, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner with his wife, walks the dog and gets a beer at the bar. He’s a simple man who sees the beauty in small things in everyday life without getting distracted by the complexities of the modern world, like smartphones and social media. Throughout the movie, he incorporates his unique outlook into his poems, which he writes in between his work shifts. Paterson is one of the most lovable and virtuous characters seen on screen in years. Thanks to this, along with a number of other spectacular qualities, “Paterson” is one of 2016’s best movies, and one that will be remembered for decades to come.
Director Jim Jarmusch (“Gimme Danger”) creates a world so realistic, yet so impossibly romantic and compelling. Never before has a simple daily routine strictly followed been so entertaining. The movie begins on Monday and chronicles the rest of the week, sucking viewers into Paterson’s daily rituals. By the time Wednesday evening comes, the audience is genuinely excited to watch Paterson walk his dog, go to the bar for a beer and see Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley, “Life”), the bartender and Paterson’s friend. Paterson is well known in the bar, and is somewhat of a hometown hero. Brief moments highlight his courage and compassion, though without it ever feeling like anything is expected in return.
Adam Driver (“Silence”) stars as the eponymous character; without his distinct style and phenomenal chops, this movie would feel empty. In “Paterson,” he once again demonstrates his diverse talent and ability to play many roles, ranging from angsty Sith Lord Kylo Ren in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to the nutty Brooklynite Lev Shapiro in “Frances Ha.” This performance, characterized by his long stares and sharp deliveries, solidifies him as one of this generation’s best.
Paterson’s wife, Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani (“M for Mother”) in one of the year’s strongest performances, is the perfect match for Paterson. Their supportive relationship, filled with optimism and serenity, is beautiful to watch. Both live separate, independent lives, while still intertwined in the love they share. He supports Laura and her many ambitious — often comically unrealistic — dreams, and she is his biggest supporter, constantly urging him to share his poems with the rest of the world. “Paterson” shows what true love looks like in its most authentic form. It’s never overly effusive and demonstrates the unconditional joy produced when two people love and support each other. Seeing two people coexist so peacefully shows hope in an increasingly hostile world; watching Laura and Paterson is almost therapeutic.
“Paterson” has a subtle charm about it. The movie contains many sincere moments and interactions, and avoids feeling too earnest. In a way, other people make up for Paterson’s quiet demeanor, providing a good chunk of dialogue during conversations with him. The interactions Paterson overhears on the bus feel like actual recordings of people talking freely as if no one is listening. It’s so refreshing to hear natural dialogue that doesn’t sound overly rehearsed or plotted out, but rather two people having an ordinary conversation.
Viewers get a glimpse of Paterson through the eyes of Paterson. Meditative shots show the stillness of the town’s life, whether it’s driving his bus or watching a stunning waterfall. There’s never a dull moment in the movie, which is saying a lot for one without a true plot or conflict.
“Paterson” is a personal and quiet story about a blue collar man, his wife and their dreams and passions. At its core, it’s about as simple as it gets. Accessible and uplifting, “Paterson” has something to offer everyone.