What isn't lost on me is the irony of my losing a review of a film that has a very similar problem at its core. I won't say too much more about that as it would be a major spoiler to the movie as a whole, and my situation isn't nearly as dire as the one faced by the story's main character. Truth be told, I was never very happy with that review anyway and often thought about revising it in some way. So, I took this happy accident as a sign that I should kick off my return to blogging by starting afresh with a new review of Jim Jarmusch's Paterson, starring Adam Driver.
My usual approach to the W2WW entries is to re-watch the film I am reviewing so I can have something accurate if not altogether fresh to say about it. I don't feel the need to do that with Paterson though. This is a film that has stuck with me since I first watched it on Amazon Prime, and my thoughts on it are very clear.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I knew there was something special about Paterson twenty minutes into it. The film is quirky enough: the title is both the setting (Paterson, NJ) and the name of the main character, played by Adam Driver. Paterson, the man, is a bus driver with an easy-going, understated personality and married to a scattered-brained wife, Laura, who he loves very much. The film follows Paterson's day-to-day interactions with his wife, people in his community, and the passengers on his bus route.
Honestly, the film could have stopped there and allowed Paterson to be our way into viewing the very intriguing and intricate relationships the various characters have with one another. It would have been a passably interesting story just by doing that. However, the film goes further and reveals to us the internal life that Paterson lives as a poet.
It is here that the film became almost magical to me. Never before have I seen a movie so successfully capture the idea that writers exist in two separate worlds: the exterior world of physical reality and every day living, and an interior world of careful observations and quiet inspiration. A simple book of matches becomes the basis of a beautiful love poem for his wife. An overheard snippet of conversation on the bus evolves into a commentary on how men and woman communicate or, rather, don't communicate. Through voice over and subtle acting, we get to see Paterson find his way into writing his poems via real world experiences.
Somewhat paradoxically, the push and pull of these two worlds (and Paterson's attempts to keep them separate) creates the unstated central conflict in the film. Paterson exists too much in one world and not enough in the other to understand the full effects and potential consequences of each. Ultimately, the story leads to a tragedy that only someone who has spent time creating and crafting something out of nothing would understand. The loss that Paterson endures and his subsequent coping with it come right out of the hopes and fears of every writer.
Paterson is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, a name familiar to me although I haven't paid much attention to his prior films, an error I still need to correct. He has made a film of real charm and power, grounded by a strong central performance from Adam Driver.