Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in a city also called Paterson in New Jersey. His routine is simple: every day he drives his bus route and afterwards he returns home to his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). After dinner, he takes the couple's bulldog for a walk and stops at a bar for a beer.
But Paterson is not just a bus driver, he's a poet - before and after work he fills a notebook with his poems, some inspired by Laura, others by the world he observes daily through his windshield. His second career is largely secret, he refuses to even photocopy the pages of his notebook, despite Laura's protestations.
Laura herself is a stay-at-home wife concerned with curious projects such as painting the couple's suburban home in black and white swirls, opening her own cupcake business, and even learning the guitar in the hope of becoming a country singer. She is somewhat loopy, but her and Paterson's relationship is loving.
The film follows Paterson and Laura for one week. Paterson driving his bus route, composing his poems and eating dinner with Laura, before heading to the bar to chat with owner, Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley) and some of the other regulars. As the week unfolds, a series of incidents take Paterson from his normal routine, leading to a heart-breaking event on Saturday evening.
A film by Jim Jarmusch, Paterson is a quiet and beautiful movie. It's a portrait of a madly in love couple existing in a spare, lonely world. Paterson is creative, but structured by routine, and not at all resentful of people labelling him by his main career. The world he inhabits is thinly populated, the once bustling city a shell of its former self, evident as Paterson walks to work through abandoned factory complexes. Despite this, Paterson is proud of his city and its notable residents, including his favourite poet, William Carlos Williams.
This isn't a mile a minute ride with plot twists all over the place. What happens to Paterson and Laura over the course of a week is a number of incidents and encounters, most very subtle, but all rendered thoughtfully. The film's gentle pace won't be for everyone, but this is a confident and brilliant film, reflecting the beauty in the world around us.