Paterson written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Amazon Studios, K5 International, Inkjet Productions, R, 118 min)
Starring Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Rizwan Manji, Barry Shabaka Henley, Chasten Harmon, and William Jackson Harper.
On the Quotidian
Collectively, we need to reappraise the quotidian. In our pursuit of the next titillating meme, status update, or app notification, the simple pleasures of life seem to disintegrate like salt upon contact with boiling water.
It’s ok to be bored. No. I’ll suggest a stronger statement. BOREDOM IS A VIRTUE. Now, a mind left in idle should never be the only aim. That said, the mundanity of life expands the subconscious atmosphere, opening our minds to creative juices left dormant when we’re always plugged in.
Through our everyday rhythms, our true selves shine. In our everyday lives, true meaning emerges, and relationships develop. If only we give it enough space.
So, I mourn the loss of quotidian virtue. Life does not demand consistent action; we need not live the blockbuster.
Yet, most stories reinforce the romantic Hollywood notion that a life worth living is a life felt fully, whether dramatic, comedic, or supernatural.
But we don’t and shouldn’t live this way.
For this reason, I found Paterson refreshing.
A Week in the Life
Selecting a week in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver poet, and his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), a renaissance woman, Paterson relishes in the mundane.
Framed through the rise-and-shine morning wake up, Paterson establishes the routine, and then leaves space for the art to inhabit the rhythms of the week.
Observational, Paterson leverages the world around him to compose his post-modern influenced poetry in his secret notebook. Twins on the bus. Twins in the bar. A box of matches. The swish of the windshield wiper. Each moment in a standard work week becomes art because Paterson gives these moments the space to become art.
In her own way, Laura, too, engages the mundane to channel creativity. Never content with the way things are, Laura spends her days painting, re-painting, learning guitar, or baking cupcakes. Her joie de vivre perfectly balances Paterson’s underplayed melancholy.
Paterson lives his routine. He walks to work. He writes his poems during breaks. He drives his route. He walks home. He eats dinner. He walks his dog to the local bar for an after-hours beer.
Using the Audience Against Itself
Playfully, Jim Jarmusch uses the audience’s viewing rules against itself. While so many of these introspective indie films draw tension from this mundane existence to create the drama needed to blow up this “boring” life, Paterson never lets the show drop. Instead, the film suggests the virtue of the quotidian life. Living in a rhythm is a virtuous pursuit. Contentment in blue collar work is honorable, especially when you and your partner make a great team.
And honestly, the relationship between Paterson and Laura represents the most profound element of the film. The nature of such a relationship, classically, points toward incompatibility. Paterson functions with a rigid dogmatism. Laura owns a free spirit. Eventually, her inability to commit to one passion project should frustrate the bus driver whose sole artistic commitment seems focused on poetry.
And yet, Paterson supports Laura unconditionally. And Laura loves Paterson and his rooted nature. The couple flourishes in the ordinary, like most real-life couples must if they have any hope of surviving the long haul.
And ultimately, these elements make Paterson feels revolutionary despite its tight narrative framework. Living an ordinary life and finding contentment in that life is extraordinary. But, it rings true. The quotidian matters greatly in life and we all ought to take steps toward embracing it.
Verdict: 4 out of 5