DVD Movie Review: Paterson

By Thom Compton 04.02.2018

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Paterson (UK Rating: 15)

Paterson is about as non-formulaic of a drama as people are likely to find. Telling the story of Adam Driver's Paterson, living in Paterson, New Jersey, the purpose of the film is difficult to pin down. It's an enjoyable one to watch, but it's a surprisingly vacant experience over all.

As mentioned before, Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Girls) plays Paterson, a bus driver who also happens to write poetry. While his wife seems dead set on him copying his work and sharing it with the world, Paterson seems much more interested in technique. He doesn't seem concerned with fame, but the process, which is why he hasn't really concerned himself with sharing his work with anyone, let alone his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani - About Elly).

Laura, on the other hand, wants fame, at least in the way many non-famous people do. She concerns herself with becoming the next Patsy Cline and gets Paterson to help her achieve her dreams. Mind you, it's not an ugly relationship they have. Laura supports Paterson unconditionally, but their goals for their art are very different. While Paterson keeps his secret musings largely to himself, Laura wants to share her music and her baking with the world.

Paterson follows a fairly standard routine. Get up, go to work, go home, eat with Laura and discuss their day, take their dog on a walk, and end up at a local bar. It is during the dog walks and the bar visits that viewers get to see the other denizens of Paterson, New Jersey, for the most part. These people are the meat and bones of the story, but what does that leave Paterson? The hair? The tendons?

See, after almost two hours of watching Paterson, it's remarkable how little actually happens. One setback later on seems to be setting up a decent redemption for young Paterson, but it ends up getting resolved in a very weird and unrealistic fashion. So much of the film seems to ground itself in real life, that the resolution to the problem is remarkably fantastical and, honestly, kind of lazy.

Director Jim Jarmusch's movie is absolutely loaded with some pretty top notch performances, and the stories that occur around Paterson are much more interesting than his story. A young pair of former lovers, an ageing bartender obsessed with the town, and even a group of young men who warn Paterson about being careless with his dog, are all far more interesting than Paterson is. While Driver's performance is fantastic, and Paterson is a generally likeable guy, it would have been nice to learn more about the people of Paterson, New Jersey, and less about Paterson himself.

A major part of the weird meandering course is Paterson's poetry, which will be enjoyed or despised, depending on personal taste. For this writer, it's a hard pass, but it won't be held against the movie in any way. It is beautiful how, as Paterson thinks of each piece, the words dance onto the screen in beautiful handwriting. The film is just that, though; a beautiful experience. Sadly, thanks to the lack of anything really happening (despite a lot of different plots being introduced), it's really hard to feel about Paterson any differently than you might about staring out the window on a rainy day. It's nice, but there's not really anything there.

Rated 5 out of 10


It's a shame that Paterson focuses so heavily on the man and not the city around him. Using him as a framing device would have been just fine, but as a main character, he just doesn't do anything that's worth watching. While the experience is enjoyable for what it is, it is actually just one giant cinematic trick. The trick is simple, really. Paterson has you sit through an entire movie, and yet shows you almost nothing. Sadly, the trick doesn't work as planned.

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