The next film on my Why I Love series is Jim Jarmusch’s 2016 indie Paterson starring Adam Driver as a bus driving poet. My previous two Why I Love films, Pulp Fiction and Boyhood, are among my favorites of all time, but I already had high expectations before watching them for the first time. I already knew Pulp Fiction was one of the greatest films ever made, and Boyhood was an incredible achievement, directed by one of my favorite directors, that took place in a time period that I grew up in. So I knew they had great potential to be favorite of mine, and they both still are to this day. However, Paterson is a completely different story.
I’ll never forget the first time I watched Paterson. It was a normal Wednesday afternoon on September 13, 2017. I didn’t have a lot of time to spare, so I figured I would watch a quick indie that I have never seen, to pass the time until I had to leave to go out. As I scrolled through the recommended films on Amazon Prime, I came upon Paterson. I was familiar with the film, seeing it on best of the year lists of 2016, but I never watched it in the year 2016, because it just never sparked my interest. I mean, a bus driving poet? C’mon! I don’t even like poetry. However, I was familiar with the director, having learned about him in one of my college courses about film. I also was vaguely familiar with Adam Driver, having seen him in a couple episodes of the TV show Girls and of course Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the main villain. I thought since it was well received with critics, and it did star Kylo Ren as a bus driver, I’d give it a try. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? What started as just a way to kill time, turned out to be an incredibly moving experience, that I can ultimately say was a big turning point in why I love movies, and also my life in general.
I’ll admit it. A lot of times after I watch an ambiguous film like this, I have to read a critics thoughts on it, hoping he or she can explain to me just why a film is so special, and deserves a lot of praise. However, with Paterson it hit me like a pile of bricks. Everything just made sense, and I began to form my own interpretations of the film, that I knew were probably different from anyone else’s opinions, but it just showed me why some films can be magical in the right person’s eyes. Films have the power to invoke emotions, thoughts, feelings, and possibly even change your point of view of the world. Everyone has their own journey in life, and gone through their own experiences, and that’s how we form our own interpretations of certain films.
For me, I was in a really rough place in my life. Feeling like I hit rock bottom, with no job, and no guidance of what I should be doing. It eventually came to point of just watching movies to distract from reality and escape into worlds that are much more interesting than my own. Then I saw Paterson. Paterson made me realize that ordinary life can be just as magical as the fictional worlds that movies allow us to escape into. We can live an ordinary life, with ordinary jobs, but it all comes down to the mindset you have. If you think positively about the world, if you’re curious about your surroundings, and good to the people around you, life will reward you. After watching this film, I immediately had a revelation and spark in my life. I became more motivated to find a job, and eventually have found a full-time job that I enjoy and keeps me busy. But it did not stop there. I wanted to try new things, and go places I have never been before. I wanted to write more, and I even wanted to become a better person. The great films have the power to teach you things and think about things in ways you may have never thought of before, but the truly special ones are the ones that change your life for the better. This is exactly what Paterson did for me, and I will always be grateful for that.
Favorite scene: I can literally pick at least 10 scenes from this film that I love and could be my favorite, but for some reason the one that I keep coming back to is the scene at the bar with the fake toy gun. In the scene, a delusional young man who has just been turned down by a girl he loves, really overreacts and ends up threatening the entire bar with a gun, and even threatens to shoot himself with the gun. Paterson then eventually tackles the man, and takes the gun away from him, only realizing that it was a fake gun the entire time. It’s a great scene that started out really dark, but unexpectedly turned out to be really funny.
I have seen this film three times, and the first time I interpreted it as a way of Jim Jarmusch just teasing us with our expectations. We expected it to be a real gun, because frankly, that’s what most movies do. On the second viewing, I payed attention more to the heroic nature of Paterson, and how he bravely tackled the young man, thinking it was a real gun, and saving the lives of everyone in the bar. However, on the third viewing, I payed attention more to Paterson afterwards, as the camera just shows him standing there with a blank face, even after the buffoonery of the fake gun incident. Even in the scene afterwards, we see Paterson just lying in bed still thinking about the incident at the bar. He has a blank face and looks very shell-shocked still. Then Jarmusch brilliantly shows a shot of the picture of Paterson as a marine just for a brief second, and then it hit me. Paterson is having PTSD about being a marine in battle. The incident with the gun brought back terrible memories for Paterson. I then began to focus more on the darkness that lurked beneath Paterson, and it gave me an entire different outlook on the character and the film, even after a third viewing.
Jarmusch is a true master of his craft, and where most directors would have had Paterson say something a long the lines of “We had an incident at the bar, and it really brought back terrible memories for me” Jarmusch leaves it alone, and allows Paterson to remain silent about it. It’s a very clever move, and one that brings more realism to the scene and character. Adam Driver’s acting is phenomenal as well, and he really pulls off the grief and turmoil bottled up within his character. A truly great sequence, and a perfect example of why this film is so great.