22 November 2016

Film Review - Patterson (2016)


Indie favourite Jim Jarmusch’s latest is a humbling look at small-town America, but one that lacks any real depth or engagement.

Adam Driver stars as Paterson, a bus driver in (ironically) the town of Paterson, New Jersey. Living in a modest, suburban house, Paterson is happily married to Laura (Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani), but his real passion in life is poetry, writing verse whenever he can, before work, during his lunch break, and when he gets home, tucked away in the couple’s tiny basement.

Paterson showcases a real rare and refreshing portrayal of a happy marriage, the pair are more or less perfect for each other, and there’s no arising conflict for them to realise this, they know this already, and we never see how they met or how they fell in love. Laura is, like Paterson, artistic, she learns to play the guitar, tastefully decorates the house, and even makes cupcakes all whilst Paterson is at work.

Jim Jarmusch is a director renowned for his minimalism in cinema, perhaps no more so than in his glorious black and white debut feature, Stranger than Paradise (1984). Paterson is no different, Jarmusch uses no special techniques, just pure realism, it almost plays out like a documentary of small-town America at times, as Paterson drives his bus through the streets of his hometown, examining the citizens, and even eavesdropping on their seemingly mundane conversations (fans of Wes Anderson should look out for a glorious but albeit brief reunion of Sam and Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom).

However, where Paterson and Jarmusch’s debut feature differ is that his new film lacks any real engagement, its pace is just too slow and meandering, you find yourself waiting for some form of conflict or change in tempo, and when it does finally come, it feels disappointing and hollow. Jarmusch has always been great and combining some dark humour into his outsider tales, however, in Paterson, he relies on the couple’s English Bulldog, who whilst being extremely cute throughout, doesn’t quite do enough to provide the comic relief required to make this film work.

To me, Paterson is a film about finding that something or someone in your life to make the utter dullness and nihilistic pointlessness of everyday life bearable. For Paterson, he has Laura, and his poetry; for Doc, the owner of the bar that Paterson frequently goes to, it’s his passion for chess. When you lose that something or someone (as local resident Everett does, in the form of his girlfriend), you begin to lose grip on reality, as Everett eventually ends up threatening the town with a gun after his girlfriend leave him. Our protagonist also goes through a similar scenario later in the film, which appears to be the story’s main conflict, but this was an underwhelming and hollow conclusion as Paterson far too quickly gets himself out of his rut.

Throughout, Driver’s Paterson seems to be disconnected from the rest of the world, like a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, peaceful, tranquil, and far far away from any of the world’s problems. As we see and share everything with Paterson, this is reflected in the film.

However, despite great turns from Adam Driver and Iranian newcomer Golshifteh Farahani, Paterson’s slow and meandering pace offers too little to become the engaging and heartfelt film it should be.

★★★| Josh Hall

Comedy, Drama | USA, 2016 | 15 | Soda Pictures | 25th November 2016 (UK) | Dir.Jim Jarmusch | Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley

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