Film review: PATERSON, from ‘Built For Speed’

Jim Jarmusch’s subtly perplexing films have been a feature of the American arthouse landscape for more than 30 years.  Often refusing to adhere to conventional narratives or to bring apparent plot threads to satisfying conclusions, Jarmusch’s films have always been an acquired taste.

This is once again the case with his latest film, Paterson which stars Adam Driver as the title character, a taciturn bus driver who also happens to live in the town of Paterson, New Jersey.  His life has a Groundhog Day repetitiveness: waking at the same time every day to transport Jersey residents through the town, being an involuntary sounding board for  his boss’s domestic gripes and patiently nodding as his eccentric free-spirited girlfriend Laura  (Golshifteh Farahani) announces her latest dubious money making scheme or artistic pursuit.  His outlets from this cyclic existence are his poetry which he prefers to scribble in a notebook rather than type into a computer and his nightly visits to a local bar where he witnesses people’s fading dreams and romantic upheavals.

This is one if the least plot-driven films in recent memory. There are a few critical incidents but they almost pass without concern. Instead, what seems to matter to Jarmusch are the ways people try to infuse the drudgery of life with mystery and hope: Paterson with his poetry and Laura with her art and questionable business schemes.  That mystery also manifests itself in odd ways throughout the film with images suggesting Paterson’s life is out of kilter with reality.  These include odd time shifts, passengers having strange conversations on the bus and people doing bizarre things like wearing their shoes on the wrong feet. Also, the town seems to have an enormous number of twins which we might surmise is a metaphor for self-reflection.  Jarmusch also plays with our perception of the characters as they constantly defy expectations such as not flying into rages or behaving violently when we think they will.

Driver plays Paterson with quiet resignation, repressed emotion, even a hint of depression that suggests that one day he might explode. Jarmusch doesn’t give Paterson an elaborate backstory but provides slivers of information through conversation and photos. Driver successfully negotiates a fine line between moroseness and likeability although it takes a while before we shake off the connection with Kylo Ren.

Paterson won’t turn those not already seduced by Jarmusch’s idiosyncratic film-making style into dedicated fans but with its quiet charm, humanism and flashes of humour it will provide a warm and engaging cinematic experience for just about any audience member.

Screening at: Cinema Nova

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Jim Jarmusch.

Release date: 22nd Dec 2016.

Running time: 118 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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