Here is an unexpected emotional powerhouse, a movie that defies the odds in serious ways, even with the imprimatur of writer-director Jim Jarmusch.
You hear that “Paterson” is about a poetry-writing bus driver named Paterson and working in the eponymous New Jersey city, and visions of an impossibly twee, insufferably agonizing experience surely emerge.
And yet the picture achieves genuine transcendence in its portrait of this run-of-the-mill landscape, transforming the daily routine of Paterson (Adam Driver) — wake up, write some poetry, drive his bus, write some more poetry, have dinner with his wife (Golshifteh Farahani), finish the night at the local watering hole, repeat cycle — into a thing of poetic beauty that finds great purpose in it.
“Paterson” considers deep and serious questions — the nature of happiness, the meaning of art — but it does so with a subtle hand and an absence of answers.
Jarmusch’s eye for naturalistic street scenes and everyday characters combines with sharply-constructed montages, with impressionistic dissolves that present Paterson as a place of kaleidoscopic wonder. It offers a tangible sense of what animates this great and unexpected artist. Driver’s restrained performance simmers with understated emotions, a great sense of longing and an inspiring degree of contentment, all at once, that elevates blue-collar setting and this unassuming man that inhabits it toward the profound.