Most of our lives are made up of small things. Morning coffee. A view from a bridge. A task done well -- or not. The movie Paterson is based on a week of such small things. Every morning Paterson, a bus driver, wakes up beside his wife, picks his neatly folded clothes off a chair, eats a dish of Cheerios, then walks through the leafy streets of his small New Jersey town -- also called Paterson -- to work. During the day, he listens to his passengers' conversation, observes the action on the streets, eats his lunch at a waterfall near the town, then returns home to his wife, who spends her days designing, cooking and learning to play the guitar. Every night he takes their dog Marvin for a walk and stops for a beer at the local bar, where once again, he observes, and sometimes, quietly, participates.
How boring could this be?
In the hands of director Jim Jarmusch, Paterson becomes many things. A meditation on the value and significance of art (Paterson is an unpublished poet whose art is central to his own private existence; his wife is an artist in her own right.) A description of how people with specific interests sniff each other out and connect (during the week, Paterson comes across a hip-hop poet, a young girl poet, and a Japanese visitor who is interested in poetry.) A view of true marital love (Paterson and his wife support, encourage and do nice things for each other even in adversity. In the bar, Paterson says: "My wife understands me" -- as opposed to the traditional saying of men in bars.) A display of colour-blindness in a small town (the widely diverse characters treat each other as people first, seemingly disregarding race and background.) A look at kindness (Paterson stops to sit with a young girl while her mother is elsewhere because he wants to ensure she is safe.) And this is just scratching the surface. As with all great works of art, Paterson is wide open to interpretation.
Before the main movie, the usual onslaught of trailers promised us extreme drama, extreme violence and extreme stupidity. What a treat that somebody, somewhere, understands that the true beauty and drama of life arises out of the small things.