PATERSON. US, 2016. Starring Adam Driver, Goldshifteh Farhani, Barry Shabaka Henley. Directed by Jim Jarmusch. 113 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language).
Most of us have never spent a day in Paterson, New Jersey, let alone a week. This film offers the occasion to make up for this never-had opportunity. This is precisely the framework of the film, seven days in Paterson.
Yes, there is quite an amount of routine, day by day, but this does not make it any the less interesting and entertaining. Actually, as the week goes on, we look forward to what each day will bring, anything new, variations on the old.
Patterson is also the name of the central character, a local bus driver, played at his best by Adam Driver. (He won the Best Actor award from the Los Angeles Critics.) He is a very good man, loyal to his work, engaged in the route his bus takes as well as the variety of passengers that he picks up and lets off. And, there are his colleagues at work, especially one pessimistic one whose domestic woes he listens to.
At home, there is his wife, who loves him, who sees him off and then she gets involved in a variety of activities at home, curtains, baking – and all with an emphasis, a high emphasis, on black and white, various designs, the contrast… She is played by Goldshifteh Farahani.
And Paterson has a dog, an English bulldog that he takes for its walk every night – or the dog takes him often enough. It is along the same streets, always ending up at the local pub for a drink, a chat, talk with the bartender, ward off the flirtatious drinker – and, later in the week, a disturbance by a man with a gun, with Paterson able to control him and be hailed as the local street hero.
However, what has not been mentioned yet is one of the most important things about him – he is a poet. He loves writing poetry. We might think that some of it is fairly mundane, but he takes opportunities in his spare moments, sitting at the wheel of the bus before he goes en route, at home, at his desk – and he has one special admiring fan, his wife.
One of the anguishing episodes of the film is his losing all his work because of his dog – but, he does lament for a bit, but is a hopeful man, encounters a little girl who has written a poem about a waterfall, encounters a Japanese poet – and is encouraged to begin again.
And that is what the end of the film does, each day has been captioned and, after the episodes of the weekend and the loss of the poems as well as the encounters, the title comes up on the screen: Monday.
This has to be one of the nicest, in the best sense of the word, films of the year that should have a wide appeal (except perhaps for too impatient diehard action fans!).
Madman Released December 22nd
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.