top of page

Paterson (2016)

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Written By Shritan Verma

Edited By Sanyam Garg

Unlike today's award contenders, 'Paterson' doesn't have any of those 'Oscar snippets' that play after a nominee's name is called out. You know, those few seconds that are shown before a winner is declared, as a display of a quality performance, where the actor has a strong emotional outburst of misery or anger. That's because 'Paterson' is an authentic and honest shout-out to everyday life itself, without a trace of melodrama.

Jim Jarmusch's attentive, low-key direction captures a townsman's quiet, slow-moving life on camera in its raw entirety, dodging Hollywood's cliché-stained filters. This is the kind of 'slice-of-life' art that defines realism by creating ordinary characters who you start to sorely miss as soon as the credits roll. There isn't a moment that seems to needlessly raise its voice over the tranquility of the titular character's daily routine.

Jarmusch transports you to a sanctum of peace and serenity from where you cosily watch Paterson (Adam Driver in top form), walking through the lulling and dreamy scenery of Paterson, the beautiful, unfussy New Jersey city of the same name. The natural and sincere conversations that the characters have make you feel as if you're stalking and eavesdropping on real people, just like how Paterson always listens in on the small-talk of commuters on the bus he drives.

Paterson's steady and almost hassle-free life evokes envy within the viewer. It's the stuff only our sweet dreams can be made of in the perilous and frustratingly one-note time we live in, that is almost drained of joy. He wakes up at around 6 a.m. every day, cuddles up to his wife for a minute before eating a bowl of cereal and finally embarks on a blissful and peaceful stroll to the bus depot.

He then returns home to appreciate his wife's art activities of the day and walks Marvin, their show - stealing pet bulldog, till a stop at the local bar. While he does all this, his mind occasionally drifts off to someplace else. A whole new surreal cosmos, treasured inside his secret notebook, where he hides his breezy and vibrant poems. He writes about the simplest details of his tiny, compact life, which people like you and me wouldn't spend a moment on. He's also the kind of solitary artist who writes for himself; the kind who would shrug off appreciation for his exceptional work. He's not that rebellious skeptic, you generally find in these kind of artist-centric films, who's intent on reshaping modern literature with his talent.

Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) represents the side of his mind that he never really wants to explore. Laura is an aspiring musician, artist and cupcake enthusiast desperately trying strike gold someday, unlike her more reserved and self-cocooned better half. She desperately wants to live the American dream, stunning everyone with her work, whether it's country music, interior design or her baking. She makes sure her childlike daily endeavours are passionately narrated to a tired Paterson after work. It's clear that Paterson means the whole world to her.

He shrouds her with his love every day, navigating them maturely through one or two situations that could affect their relationship with minor squabbles, and so she sweetly wears this love with pride. She doesn't leave the house on the weekdays and seems to love being guarded by the walls, curtains and furniture which she spends days colouring black and white due to her obvious monochromatic obsessions. Hence, their house is turned into a fancy art studio. She even dresses black and white. She's also a fervent admirer of her husband's unpublished pieces, and adorably convinces him to makes copies of his notebook over the weekend (which our stubborn hero eventually doesn't do).

The film's narrative is smooth and organic. It's structured like Paterson's poems, with its seven episodes (one for each day of the week) basically being seven stanzas. It manages to spellbind without ever feeling repetitive or uneventful, despite playing along with the protagonist's weekly routine. Through Paterson's perspective, Jarmusch inspires you to value and cherish the smaller moments in life. His vision is impressively microscopic, even without those long close-up shots of nature that documentaries and films of the same genre are loaded with (which is quite ironic considering Jarmusch's documentary film making roots). He uses this to bring out how observant and engrossed the day-dreaming poet is. Like when Laura and Paterson discuss the possibility of having kids, Paterson starts to see twins everywhere he goes. Something that would go unnoticed by the ordinary folk.

'Paterson' is, most importantly, a heart-touching lesson. It teaches acceptance of life and humility while gently celebrating life itself. It's a poignant character study that tons of people can relate to, and begs to be viewed more than once. When it's finally time to leave Paterson's fantastical world of thought and wonder, you aren't ready to say your goodbyes. You start to crave for a similar life. One full of waterfalls, love and people (yes, actual people and not mere pretentious caricatures of others) . You may even observe those reticent, hard-working people like I did, and ask yourself - 'what are their stories?'

The film ends where it began. A shot of the two poetic leads in bed, on a lazy morning, before getting up to fill the fresh, empty page for the day.


Recent Posts

See All



bottom of page