The Bus Poet

Jarmusch’s ode to routine is minimalism at its best

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Paterson
RPL Film Theatre
April 27–30
Opens March 17

Paterson is possibly the mellowest movie imaginable, the cinematic equivalent of an old couch.

Following a career high (the superb Only Lovers Left Alive), Jim Jarmusch takes a step back —much more in tune with his earlier work — in this deceptively simple meditation on routine and art. Not one to abandon his indie roots despite turning to the Dark Side, Adam Driver is perfect as the title character. Paterson is happy with his life. He has a whimsical and loving wife (Golshifteh Farahani, Rosewater), a pub that suits his sensibilities and a job — bus driver — that lets him rove around his beloved city: Paterson, New Jersey (the happenstance is not lost on anybody).

The only thing that distinguishes Paterson is his appreciation for poetry, both as a reader and a writer. Paterson’s work reflects his life (minimalist, unassuming). He finds inspiration in commuters’ mundane conversations and doesn’t have any publishing ambitions, despite his wife’s encouragement. The closest the film gets to a conflict comes from mild spousal nagging and a passive-aggressive dog.

Paterson flirts with surrealism, but never leaves the viewers hanging. The film’s intellectual streak is sweet: it introduces audiences to the poems of New Jersey’s Williams Carlos Williams and shows us what could have happened to the leads of Moonrise Kingdom after their escape attempt (anarchy, of course).

Jarmusch’s attempt to find transcendence in repetition would’ve been daring enough before he added poems to the mix. Does it work? The verdict will vary from one viewer to the next. But if you’re in the right mindset, Paterson is a powerful experience.❧