Upon watching Paterson, I was reminded of a line from the surprisingly successful big screen Alan Partridge adaptation: Alpha Papa. Near the beginning we are bestowed some vintage Alan. Reaching out to his North Norfolk faithful, Alan asks “Have you ever met a genuinely clever bus driver?” One could say that Jim Jarmusch’s latest feature puts that question to bed. Starring a career best Adam Driver, the wonderful Golshifteh Farahani and a scene-stealing dog named Marvin (real name Nellie), Paterson is a minor key masterpiece about a bus driver who writes beautiful poetry, known only to himself. Set across the course of a week, we take in the sights and sounds of (sub)urban life in a befittingly poetic way.

By turns a metaphysical and meditative feature, Jim Jarmusch weaves a story that is emotionally stirring without being in any way pushy. It’s also very, very funny in parts. William Jackson Harper does an amazing job with his small supporting role as Everett the lovelorn sap whose misguided sentimentality serves to bolster the stoic figure of Paterson, all while being played for yuks. Each of his scenes are wonderful nuggets of tragicomedy that serve to level out the ‘steady-as-she-goes’ ease of Paterson’s life. Everett is a figure to laugh at for sure, but as with all good comedy, only through the pained smirk borne of relatability. One cringes at Everett with the empathetic realisation that, in matters of love, one is always more likely to be pauper than a poet.

What I like most about the film is that it is an inspiring film for artists of all persuasions. From the tentative first timers to the jaded pros; watching Paterson is like a shot in the arm for the creative soul. It is an unapologetic and commendably unpretentious exploration of how being creative or artistic serves as a way of living and, indeed, living well. When Paterson goes to his local bar every evening he stares upon the wall of the local great and good such as Albert Costello and William Carlos Williams. Seemingly unbothered by his own artistic legacy, or historical standing in the local community, Paterson keeps himself to himself. With that being said, the film’s great final twist is to make the definitive claim that any art that is good and truthful deserves to be shared. It is also the finest, most romantically argued propaganda piece for artists to relocate to the suburbs. The relatively small and ‘un-bustley’ city of Paterson, New Jersey is a well of inspiration that seems almost combative to other cities such as New York or London, where many ‘artists’ believe it is imperative to be based.

I really cannot overstate just how much I adore this film. Already, I envisage myself returning to it time and time again in hours where I am in need of consoling. Gladly placing it alongside a small roster of feel-good, or in some cases just out-and-out ‘feel’ films such as Lost in Translation, Frances Ha and The Muppets Christmas Carol. I’m absolutely certain Paterson will join this mismatched group of heartfelt gems on my shelf entitled ‘comfort films’. That is not to say, however, that Paterson or either of those aforementioned films are particularly ‘easy’ or unchallenging films. On the contrary, what I admire about the film is its unabashed references to intellectual pursuits, while still being accessible and steeped in the type of unanswered symbolism that rewards repeated viewings.

Dir: Jim Jarmusch
Scr: Jim Jarmusch
Featuring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Rizwan Manji
Prd: Joshua Astrachan, Daniel Baur, executive producer, Ronald M. Bozman
DOP: Frederick Elmes
Music: Jim Jarmusch, Carter Logan, Sqürl
Country: USA
Year: 2016
Run time: 118 mins

Paterson is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 27th March.

By Robert Whitehead

Keele/Kings College London graduate Film Critic 23