By Afra Nariman
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, William Jackson Harper, Method Man
In the city of Patterson, New jersey, a bus driver named Patterson (played by Adam Driver) is a poet in his spare time. He lives a life of simplicity. His wife Laura (played by Golshifteh Farahani) loves the artistic elements of life and is an extremely optimistic person, including about Patterson’s poetry. The film follows a week in Patterson’s life as he drives the bus, writes a poem for Laura, observes the people in his town and walks his dog to the local bar every night.
Jim Jarmusch’s Patterson is a meditation on simplicity, explored through a film that is both minimalist and mystical. It showcases the repetitive life of a small town bus driver — who’s also a poet. It keeps a calm and steady pace, putting you in a trance and absorbing you into his genuinely grounded life of simplicity.
Patterson lives in the city of Patterson, New Jersey. As someone in the film comments on this coincidence:
“Well, that’s kind of crazy, right?”– Marie
Although it is kind of crazy, it makes perfect sense, once you’ve watched the film. Like the small New Jersey town, Patterson the man is very simple, perhaps even bland on the outside, but has a lot of depth when you get to know him. Likewise, Patterson, the city, is small, quiet — there’s nothing extravagant about it — but it has a rich history of artists, writers and poets who breathe life into the story.
The film follows a week in Patterson’s life, as he wakes up around 6:15am every morning, drives his daily bus route, writes his poems, straightens his mailbox every day, comes home to his beautiful wife Laura, and walks his dog to a nearby bar every night to have just a little bit of beer and some lively conversations with the charismatic bar tender, Doc and the locals who frequent the bar each night. Although his life is simple, it has depth as well. On his routes, he overhears passengers having interesting conversations, he has a co worker who complains about his life daily, and he has the time to write poetry every day. Additionally, during the night scenes at the bar, a side story develops between two locals who are going through a break up, that drags Patterson in the middle of things.
One of the most interesting things about the film is the very subtle love story between Patterson and Laura. It’s never forced upon us, but it peacefully hovers over the story. One of the more memorable lines of the film comes from Everett, who is going through the break-up with the woman he loves. In a moment of desperate emotion, he says:
What’s fascinating, yet makes total sense after watching the film progress so naturally and perfectly, is that Patterson and Laura are opposites. Patterson is happy with his simple, repetitive day. He drives his bus, writes love poems about matchboxes, drinks his 3/4 of a beer every night, and he doesn’t even have a cellphone. On the other hand, Laura is full of life and curiosity. She tries new things and has many ambitions for change. Her artistic and visual style have a strong presence in their lives and on the film. A few of the many examples of her personality are; she spontaneously paints their house’s doorways and shower curtains, she dreams of being a country singer and to have her own cupcake business. While Patterson lives a repetitive lifestyle, Laura is the opposite. Nothing is out of mind for her. They’re different, but they’re perfect together. They ground one another. Patterson says of his love;
Surrounding the simple story about a simple man living in a simple town, there is a subtly mystical aura. The first thing you notice begins with the first words spoken in the film by Laura. As they wake up, like most mornings, she whispers her dream to Patterson. She explains:
I had a beautiful dream, we had twins.– Laura
For the rest of the week, Patterson ironically sees multiple sets of twins around town; on his bus route, in the bar, and on the streets. The setting of a small town, where nothing significant ever really happens, allows small things to create an elusive aura that transcends what you would think possible for such a story. Being that Patterson is a film about poetry, particularly playing ode to poet William Carlos Williams, there is a natural mystical ambiance around it.
The ending elegantly pays homage to the art of poetry, the town of Patterson, and to human life in general. After a somber night, the night before (which details I won’t spoil), we are given perspective on the inevitable grief that we all feel in life from time to time. Patterson runs into Everett, who is still trying to move past his heartbreak. He says:
The last thing that the film shows us is Patterson reflecting on a line from an old song, as he ponders his recent grief, putting his momentary sadness and hopelessness in perspective:
“Or would you rather be a fish?”
The next morning, he wakes up again at 6:15, next to his beautiful wife Laura, and heads off to start another week of driving buses and writing poems. Human life entails ups and downs, but that comes with being human. On the flip side, we also have art, poetry, love and all of the other things that make life worth living.
A little girl who Patterson meets summarizes what this film is really about when she says of Patterson:
That line captures the combination of simplicity and depth, found both in Patterson the man, and Patterson the movie.
The film highlights the life of normal people, in love, living in a small town, paying mind to nothing more than their artistic passions and their own existence. Director Jim Jarmusch, along with the stars of the film, Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani are a match made in heaven. Their acting chemistry in Jarmusch’s story is unbelievable. Patterson highlights the random connections that occur in our lives every day, but that we often don’t notice due to the hectic nature of our lives. Patterson’s life in the film is simple and rarely hectic, allowing for these moments to be noticeable, which reveal the wonder of human life on an everyday level. With poetry providing the film with an artistic and lively essence, we realize that life, when simplified to its most natural, can become poetic itself. It is refreshing to watch such a grounded film that shows us that simplicity can still be found in the very complex world of today.