Dir. Jim Jarmusch, 113 mins, starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Helen-Jean Arthur, Owen Asztalos, Kacey Cockett, Luis Da Silva Jr.
“Awesome – a bus driver that likes Emily Dickinson!” one character marvels at Paterson (Adam Driver) midway through Jim Jarmusch’s beguiling new film. Paterson drives the No 23 through the New Jersey town with which he shares a name. His life seems repetitive and boring in the extreme. He takes the same walk to work.
He has the same conversation with his supervisor, whose car is always breaking down, whose wife is always complaining and whose kids are always ill. He takes the bus along the familiar route. Then he goes home. He walks the dog. He stops by for a drink at the local bar. He chews the fat with the barman. “Same old, same old,” the barman always says when asked about his life.
He sleeps with his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). Then he does it all again. It’s a Groundhog Day-like existence, numbing and constricted, but Jarmusch makes it seem as if Paterson is his very own garden of Eden.
It’s as if the director is setting himself the same challenge that his lead character faces, namely finding comedy, novelty, drama and magic in the minutiae of daily life. The film unfolds over the course of a week. Paterson, played with wide-eyed innocence and good nature by Driver in a role a long way from Kylo Ren in Star Wars, positively radiates contentment.
Jarmusch, meanwhile, manages to provide his audience with the same little pleasures that the bus driver so enjoys. We eavesdrop with Paterson as he listens to his passengers chattering away about everything from anarchy to imprisoned boxer, Reuben “Hurricane” Carter.
One of the pleasures, here as with so many of Jarmusch’s films, is the absolute resistance against conventional Hollywood storytelling. There isn’t conflict. Paterson doesn’t have any goal here beyond a vague desire to see his poetry in print – and that itself is something his girlfriend feels far more strongly about than he does.
This is a movie in which very little happens. A bus breaks down. A dog eats a notebook. A jealous lover pulls a stunt with a fake gun. Paterson’s girlfriend bakes cupcakes and plays her new guitar. A Japanese tourist comes to town. That’s about the sum of it. The film proceeds at the same deliberate pace that Paterson drives his bus. Somehow, the repetitions don’t chafe. They give the film its distinctive rhythm and unlikely charm.
There are references to comedians Abbott and Costello (Lou Abbott was born in Paterson and his picture is hung behind the bar) but Jarmusch doesn’t go in for Abbott and Costello-style knockabout farce. His humour is dry and understated.
Paterson isn’t the first movie the director has made about drivers. His 1991 portmanteau picture Night On Earth featured five different taxi drivers in cities around the world, taking their passengers on night-time journeys. That film felt like an exercise in pastiche. The director was adapting his style to the cities in which he was shooting.
There was Fellini-esque excess when he was in Rome, a strong sense of Aki Kaurismaki in the Helsinki scenes, and a hint of French New Wave self-consciousness about the Paris scenes. In Paterson, Jarmusch is telling the story in his own distinctive voice.
It helps that there isn’t quite so much posing going on as in some of the director’s earlier films which often featured rock stars (Tom Waits and Joe Strummer among them) in prominent roles and were sometimes shot in the same self-conscious black and white as pop promos for Eighties indie bands. The film is set in New Jersey, not New York, and makes a virtue out of its small-town provinciality.
Just occasionally, the whimsy can become exasperating. You begin to wonder just how Paterson puts up with Laura’s continual baking of cup cakes and her naive dream of learning the guitar and becoming a country singer. Marvin, Paterson’s pet bulldog, gets just a few too many close-ups. Paterson gives the impression that he is looking in on life rather than actually living it.
Early Oscars 2017 contenders
Early Oscars 2017 contenders
Martin Scorsese’s passion project since 1991 is yet to receive a release date but rumours abound that it will be out in time for the Oscars. Based on a novel of the same name by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, the story centres on two Jesuit missionaries sent to 17th century Japan to spread Christianity and find their mentor Once there, they endure brutal persecution at the time of Kakura Kirishitan (‘Hidden Christians’) following the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion. Silence sounds weighty, intense and full of hard-hitting promise.
2/18 Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi director Ang Lee has narrowly missed out on a Best Picture win twice now but this adaptation of Ben Fountain’s acclaimed novel could be the film that finally wins him some overdue glory. The cast includes Kristen Stewart and Vin Diesel with newcomer Joe Alwyn in the lead as 19-year-old soldier Billy, who is brought home for a victory tour after serving in Iraq. Told in flashbacks, the drama reveals the horror of what really happened to his squad in contrast to America’s flashy, patriotic perceptions. Out here 6 January.
3/18 A United Kingdom
Oyelowo plays Prince Seretse Khama, inaugural Botswana president from 1966 to 1980, in this follow-up to 2015’s Belle. Films about real life people often hold clout with the Academy when done well and with Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike playing Khama’s eventual wife Ruth Williams, A United Kingdom should pull in cinemagoers. Khama sparked a global stir when he married the white Londoner in the late Forties and the first pictures from the movie promise beautiful costumes and cinematography. A United Kingdom will open the London Film Festival before its general release on 25 November.
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton star as Mildred and Richard Loving in this historical drama about an interracial couple sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for the crime of getting married. Out here just in time for the Oscars on 3 February. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, Loving earned positive reviews from critics when it competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes and received a standing ovation for understated, strong performances.
5/18 Manchester by the Sea
One of the best scripts co-producer Matt Damon had ever read, this tragedy about an uncle who is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies while trying to reconcile with his ex-wife stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and newcomer Lucas Hedges. It was bought at Sundance by Amazon for $10 million and arrives in the UK on 13 January.
6/18 Nocturnal Animals
Designer Tom Ford has cinematic strings to his bow, as proved with 2009’s Venice premiere The Single Man. He’s back in the chair for this drama-thriller starring Amy Adams as a remarried art gallery owner whose ex-husband’s violent new book begins to haunt her. Jake Gyllenhaal, Isla Fisher and Armie Hammer also star. Due in UK cinemas on 4 November.
7/18 The Light Between Oceans
Michael Fassbender stars alongside last year’s Best Supporting Actress winner Alicia Vikander in the big screen adaptation of ML Stedman’s 2012 novel of the same name. Derek Cianfrance is the man behind the camera for this story about a lighthouse keeper war veteran who rescues a baby girl with his wife after she washes up on an adrift rowboat. Then, in steps another Oscar winner, Rachel Weisz, as the woman who threatens to break their happy family apart. Out in the UK on 4 November - bring tissues.
8/18 American Pastoral
Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut with this period adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel American Pastoral. The drama - set in the 60s - centres on a successful businessman (McGregor) whose missing daughter (Dakota Fanning) is accused of a violent bombing in post-war America. Out in the UK on 11 November.
9/18 Queen of Katwe
Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) is the director behind this long-awaited biopic of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi. That Mutesi is played by 12 Years a Slave Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o is reason enough to anticipate this Disney-produced film, out here 21 October.
10/18 Free Fire
Ben Wheatley’s new action thriller will close the London Film Festival. Set in Massachusetts in the late Seventies, Free Fire stars Oscar-winning Room actress Brie Larson in the lead alongside Cillian Murphy. It follows the ‘heart-stopping game of survival’ after shots are fired during a meeting between Justine, two Irishmen and two arms dealers who are selling them a stash of guns. Expect ‘blood, sweat and irony’ with bravura filmmaking from the High-Rise director. Reaches UK cinemas sometime in 2017.
Jim Jarmusch’s Palme d’Or contender sees Adam Driver take the lead as a bus driver poet from Paterson, New Jersey. Each night after work, he has dinner with his wife Laura before walking his dog (2016’s Palm Dog winner) to the bar for one beer. Then one day, a small disaster strikes.
12/18 The Founder
Michael Keaton has starred in the last two Best Picture winners Spotlight and Birdman. Here, he takes on the role of ruthless McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, with the film telling the story of the fast food empire’s origins. The ambitious entrepreneur on a journey to theme didn’t end so well for last year’s Joy, so it remains to be seen whether The Founder can live up to expectations as an Oscars contender. Out here 30 September.
The Weinstein Company
Clint Eastwood returns with Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, about the hero pilot who, in 2009, successfully landed his plane along the Hudson River after it was disabled by a flock of geese, saving all 155 crew and passengers. Tom Hanks takes the lead as Chesley Sullenberger in a biopic that sounds like it could tick a lot of Oscars boxes. Based on the autobiography Highest Duty, the thriller marks Eastwood’s first directorial effort since 2014’s American Sniper. Out 2 December.
Pablo Larrain directs Oscar winner Natalie Portman as late first lady and fashion icon Jacqueline Kennedy in what he has promised will not be another ‘classic biopic’. Set in the days immediately after John F Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, the film sparked great excitement among distributors after a seven-minute promo screened at Cannes. Release date unknown at this stage.
15/18 The Girl on the Train
The Help’s Tate Taylor is in the director’s chair for ‘this year’s Gone Girl’ about a troubled woman who becomes embroiled in a murder case after developing a fixation on a beautiful couple from her commuter train. Expect a film pulsating with creepy, voyeur vibes, a la Rear Window, based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling thriller. Out in the UK on 7 October.
16/18 Florence Foster Jenkins
Meryl Streep has been widely praised for her turn as the 1940s New York heiress who couldn’t sing (and we mean really couldn’t sing) yet somehow became an opera singer with the help of her patient husband St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) and pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg). Directed by two-time Academy nominee Stephen Frears, the film proved heartwarming and inspiring upon its release earlier this year and was embraced by both film lovers and critics.
Rebecca Hall set Sundance ablaze in January, earning five-star reviews for ‘the performance of her career’ in Christine, about the news anchor who killed herself live on air in 1974 after suffering from depression. Yet to receive a UK release date, Christine arrives in US cinemas in October, with Antonio Campos also one to watch for directorial accolades come awards season.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Jeremy Renner in a scene from 'Arrival'
His domestic bliss verges on the suffocating. Under his benevolent gaze, Paterson the town is a neverland without crime or violence or squalor. You begin to wish that he’ll have a row with Laura or get drunk or have an accident driving the bus – anything to shake him out of his complacency. The only real passion he has is for the poetry of William Carlos Williams.
Then again, this is a film in which small, seemingly throwaway scenes often register the most strongly. There is one encounter which could easily have been very creepy, in which the bus driver starts talking to a young girl he meets as he walks home. She is waiting for her mother and should surely be suspicious of the strange man accosting her.
In the event, this turns out to be one of the most delicate and affecting moments in the film. She’s a poet, just like him. She recites some of her verse and he realises that she has effortlessly achieved the naive and pared-down style that he has been striving for.
This is the second Jarmusch film released in British cinemas in a matter of weeks, coming after his frenetic Iggy and the Stooges rock documentary, Gimme Danger. Danger and confrontation are precisely what Paterson lack. Its pleasures are far more subtle. Jarmusch proves that it is possible to make a film in which the everyday can be turned into something mysterious and even transcendent. This a quiet film but ultimately a very rewarding one.