Although filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is probably above ever using the word mindfulness, his new movie Paterson plays like an instruction manual for the meditative practice. The quiet film, which premiered earlier this year at Cannes Film Festival, centers on star Adam Driver, who portrays a low-key bus driver named Paterson, living in the town of Paterson, New Jersey.
“He is a guy who likes routine,” Jarmusch told Men’s Journal recently at a special screening of the film. “So he doesn’t have to think about what clothes to wear, or when to be at work.”
Paterson wakes up every day without an alarm clock, eats the same breakfast of Cheerios in a mug, kisses goodbye to his wife (Golshifteh Farahani), and heads to the bus station to loop the city on his bus route.
“His bus is basically the same route everyday,” Jarmusch said. “It allows him to drift, and on the bus you can listen to people’s conversations. I love the height, physically, of the bus. It seemed like a nice way to allow him to float through the world.”
During his lunch break, Paterson sits by the local waterfall and writes poetry in his notebook. After work he has dinner, takes the dog for a walk, and has a beer at the neighborhood pub. As Paterson floats through the world, he appears entirely content, optimistic, unflustered by life’s stresses, and able to stay creative.
Jarmusch, who has studied Buddhism in the past, has said he also tries to take a Zen-like approach to life.
"I think the secret is going with the grain of things,” Jarmusch recently told i-D magazine. “I am a worrier, so I am always trying to be present and not worry about things in the future because it is a waste of my energy."
As a result, the pleasure of the movie rests in its little details, and quiet comedy — if audience members are tuned-in enough to notice recurring elements like twins, insufferable lovers, and a wonky mailbox.
The poems that Paterson writes throughout the movie, are also real compositions from New York School poet Rod Padgett, a longtime-friend of Jarmusch. Padgett was given a copy of the script and commissioned to write three new poems for the film, and Jarmusch selected four of his older poems, one of which includes an ode to a box of matches.
“I’d call them love poems, some of them I wrote for my wife,” Padgett tells MJ. “And others are love poems for the world — just the simple things in life.”
Paterson opens December 28.