Wake up. Still sleepy. Look at your watch. It’s time to wake up. Hug and kiss your sleeping wife. Get up. Walk to the kitchen. Pour some cereal and milk into a bowl for breakfast. Walk to the bus station where you work. Open your lunch box. Take your notebook and pen out. Write. Pour all your ideas on the paper until it’s time to work. Put your things back into the box and head to the bus station. Concentrate on your driving and do the same route a couple of times a day while you entertain yourself with the conversations of your passengers. Eat your lunch on the same bench where you’ve been savoring the same sandwich and take some of your breaks to continue writing. Go back to the bus and work for a couple of hours more until your shift ends. Walk back home. Empty the mailbox. Go inside. Say hello to the dog and your wife. Make small talk and have dinner. It's time to take the dog out for a walk. Go to your favorite bar to grab a beer. Talk with the usual attendees about random stuff and go back home. Go to bed and repeat.
This is the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), a young poet who is immersed in a monotonous life and doesn’t seem to be able or interested in doing things differently. The movie, directed by Jim Jarmusch, shows us a week in the life of this man. It’s like a first person narrative where we don’t see anything else but what this man does. Depicting a week of his humdrum life, we can get a good sight into Paterson's emotions. However, we can't really be sure since, as we learn throughout the movie, he’s a very stoic man who doesn’t really express what’s inside him. We don’t really see him cry, get angry, or laugh spontaneously. At the beginning, the only displays of emotion he has are discrete smiles while he listens to the conversations on the bus and the subtle displays of affection to his wife. Now, as the week progresses, we see that life gives him cues to get out of that cycle.
His lack of expressivity makes us understand why he seems content or satisfied with doing the same over and over again. Even when his bus gets stranded in the middle of the street, he doesn’t show an ounce of concern or anger. He’s just logical in his moves and way of being. Or at least that’s what we think until we see him in the bar. Despite this being part of his everyday routine, becomes a shelter where he can release some of his true personality.
To understand better how stuck he is in that monotony, we must see what his life is like besides the activities he does. He lives in a house where literally nothing reflects his personality or style. All the furniture, walls, curtains, and objects have been redesigned by his wife who spends her day at home painting over these objects. You know Paterson loves her. It’s in his poetry and the way he looks at her while she’s sleeping, but you get the feeling that he’s not really happy with her. Yet there are plenty of cracks. For instance, he has to take care of a dog that he clearly doesn’t like, and the house has many paintings of the dog he has to watch all the time. He has to take him out to walk, and you can see that he hates it. Perhaps that’s why he goes to the bar.
Finally, and in an attempt to keep this free from spoilers, one thing that Jarmusch does fantastically is the overlapping of Paterson’s life and eagerness to hold onto his monotonous life with the town’s own essence. Called like the character, Paterson, New Jersey and its population seem to be so clung to their past and their roots. Like the young poet, they fail to see what’s beyond. With constant scenes showing us the important people who lived there, or even in the bar's wall of fame displaying successful former inhabitants of the town, Paterson's people don’t really look unfamiliar to the poet's attitudes.
So why does this man, who basically looks miserable with his life, doesn’t really do something to change his reality? Why doesn’t he confront his wife, who seems to be the only one who is happy with her life and is constantly looking for new activities to do? The answer is simple: for him, his escape is his poetry, the only place where he can really express what he thinks and feels. Poetry becomes his life, his real life, the place where he explores the world. As long as he has it, the world can literally burn down.
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