Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movie Review: PATERSON

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in, coincidentally, Paterson, New Jersey. He lives in a humble home with his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and they are happily in love with each other and their dog. Paterson also happens to write poetry routinely as he goes around town in his bus and experiences everyday life.

As anyone who has heard of this film you will probably know that there is no hook in the synopsis, no inciting incident. Paterson is a film that looks at routine and ordinariness and succeeds in that is a, fittingly, poetic look at the joys of simplicity and tranquility and a wonderfully absorbing filmmaking effort that is most unlikely to any other film I've seen this year.

Having been a big critic of Adam Driver in the past, more so because I thought he was constantly miscast, I was so pleasantly surprised by a performance of him that I could finally appreciate and what a performance to start with. A lot of this film's success lies in his hands. I can only imagine what an effort it must have taken director Jim Jarmusch to direct him in the perfect way, to put into words what ultimately he envisioned on screen. Yet, the effort must have been worth it because Driver comes out utterly convincing. This is a performance of nuances, of little details, of eyes wandering in one direction rather than the other, and of postures. He covers it all and becomes this quirky character, he sells the idea of an every-man perfectly and because of that it makes the film as relatable as it is.

His co-star, Golshifteh Farahani, walks the same line just as finely. Her character is very extroverted, a perfect opposite of what Driver is, and she plays off him magnificently. It could be very easy for her to become a stereotype, a cliché, or an annoying presence in the film, she has all the ingredients to be so, but by playing the part so genuinely and lovingly we get a character that is sweet and convincing just as she should be. There is no big twist for her, nothing going on underneath that should be a big mystery, she is just an affectionate character and I loved to see her come to play and interact with the equally loving, yet more introverted Paterson. Their relationship felt incredibly genuine and raw in a way that few films have ever captured and serves as a perfect companion piece to something like The Before Trilogy which looks at relationships in a completely different way, but emerges with the same genuine emotion on screen.

Jarmusch keeps things simple behind the camera as it should be: the shots are simple, they don't call attention to themselves and the camera movement is minimal, even though when it actually starts moving there is always a reason for it. This is one of the best examples of changing camera movement with emotion. It is in the little details that one could lose hours researching and reflecting upon and that is exactly the function of the poetry in the film, which talks about small things but it charges them with significance and thematic power. You are constantly fascinated by the world portrayed on screen and it is thanks to a brilliant puzzle of editing, cinematography, sound, and performance that manages to capture a simple world and fill it with meaning and evolve only slightly through the film making you fascinated by every word uttered and every frame displayed.

I think that where the film stumbles is in its closing. It looked like it felt the need to give some kind of closure to the characters and not leave them as ordinarily as we found them, and it felt a little too artificial when compared to the rest of the film. Paterson has some encounters which I didn't really buy into as they felt way too heavy on significance. Yet, the most problematic element in my opinion is the fact that I could have easily envisioned this film ending without any of these scenes and just by keeping the rhythm it had had up until then. I actually think that by going this way, Jarmusch partially deprived the film of the magic it was building with the beauty in everyday life. The message that ultimately gets conveyed didn't necessitate those symbolical scenes in my view.

Paterson is a wonderful experience, it fills your heart up with joy and tranquility, the poetic nature of the film is a stroke of genius and makes what is possibly the most bland premise of all time a riveting two hour watch that moved me deeply and made me reflect upon a wide range of themes. 

James' Score: 8/10

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