Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Paterson’ finds beauty and zen in the mundane


How many of you have taken a matchbox, marveled at the ordinary looking design on its cover, found something in it that others didn’t and sat down to pen your thoughts on it? The main character in Jim Jarmusch’s new film Paterson actually does that. He has a talent for poetry and one imagines that these sorts of things come naturally to poets – the ability to find beauty and zen in the mundane.

As is the case with most Jarmusch films, Paterson is not so much about plot as it is about feeling. If someone asks me about its plot, all I can say is: “It’s about a week in a man’s life. He wakes up, kisses his sleeping girlfriend, goes to work, writes some poetry in his free time, comes back from work, takes his dog out for a walk, goes to a bar and comes back home and eats the dinner his girlfriend has prepared for him.”

The film is about the little details that come in between – details that the ordinary person doesn’t care for much unless they are the introspective kind. As always, Jarmusch introduces us to a set of idiosyncratic characters. Paterson is named after the town he lives in. His dog has a personality of its own – one that resembles a person’s – and gets so possessive when Paterson is being showered with kisses by his girlfriend.

Speaking of his work, Paterson is a bus driver and the actor who plays him is a Driver too – Adam Driver. The adorable Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Body of Lies), who speaks flawless English here, plays his girlfriend Laura. Looking at the sweet relationship of these two characters, one is compelled to ask if both genuinely care about each other’s interests or are they pretending to be, because you don’t see a single negative conversation taking place.

He puts up with her idiosyncrasies and she puts up with his. It’s an ideal relationship. She is fixated with black and white and everything from her clothes to their home décor is dominated by these two colors. Even the cupcakes she makes have black and white designs on them. And she seems to be interested in so many things – one day she wants to make cupcakes and another day she wants to learn guitar. She stresses the importance of developing new interests as we grow older.

He keeps a small notebook with him in which he writes his poetry – a different style of poetry – while sitting by his favorite place, a waterfall which is located a short distance away from his home. He and Laura discuss the possibility of having twins and since that conversation, you get to see more than one set of twins in the film. One of them even shares Paterson’s gift. The bar he frequents at night presents us with few amusing characters as well, notably, a black guy who is dealing with heartbreak. Jarmusch extracts a few laughs out of his predicament.

And another trademark of Jarmusch is that all his characters are all racially diverse. You get to see people from all nationalities and ethnicities. I view Paterson as the final part of a trilogy – one that began with Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog followed by The Limits of Control. All these films have a central character that is mindful of his surroundings, is extremely perceptive and along the way meets kindred spirits with whom they indulge in pleasant conversations.


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