Rated R, 118 minutes
The relaxed, well-acted new Jim Jarmusch ("Only Lovers Left Alive") dramedy "Paterson" is a pleasant tribute to the everyday, discreet poet who's making observations about life and love. The leisurely week-in-the-life "Paterson," which is one of Jarmusch's most accessible films to date, is a reference to three essential things: the place, the person, and the poetry, all three which help define the man and his movie.
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a hardworking bus driver in Paterson, N.J., who follows the same routine every day. While making observations throughout his day, Paterson also writes heartfelt poems in a notebook, walks his dog and drinks one beer in a bar after his shift is over. Waiting for him at home is Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), his beloved artistic wife who champions his gift for writing.
Directed and written by Jarmusch and superbly acted by unconventional leading man Driver, in his first true starring role and who up to now is best known for the TV show "Girls" and for playing Kylo Ren in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (and also seen in a small role in the recent Scorsese epic "Silence"), the intelligent, sensitive "Paterson" can be occasionally talky and slow, but to those familiar with Jarmusch's previous work, this is unsurprising; for non-art majors or those expecting lots of zombies, action and blood, this is not your movie.
He shines in the low-key, amiable role of the observant, slightly ADD bus driver who channels his sensitive side through writing poetry; his day-to-day observations and eavesdropping to bus passengers add some extra color to his art, after all, as Hemingway once said, you should write what you know about, which Paterson does beautifully, even about the small things: you won't look at Ohio Blue Tip matches the same after Paterson writes about them.
Paterson is helped by his lovely, supportive wife Laura, played by the beautiful Farahani, and whose character has some intriguing aspirations of her own (country music singing) not to mention all the lovely handmade art she makes around their small house. Upstaging the well-paired leads is an English bulldog named Marvin, who demands attention and helps gets Paterson out of the house for some much-needed interaction with others.
Also memorable in a couple of small roles is "The Good Place's" William Jackson Harper, a lovetorn man with issues, familiar sad-sack character actor Barry Shabaka Henley ("The Terminal," "Miami Vice") as bar owner Doc, and as the mysterious Japanese man who helps Paterson further explore his poetry writing, Masatoshi Nagase. With this, Jarmusch adds a nice mention for William Carlos Williams' poetry book, aptly named "Paterson," which rightfully serves as an inspiration for Driver's Paterson here too.
Fortunately, Jarmusch adds Paterson's poetry to the screen, so we can see his creations in progress, some of them - much like the film itself - oddly touching. Jarmusch and "Paterson" bring lots of independent film vibes here, and on that note this is best suited for those who enjoy something a little outside the typical cinematic box, and is a nice portrait of some of the things in our everyday lives that may inspire us.