Paterson is a calm yet deeply penetrating expression of the dynamic between restricting work and liberating creativity we all experience in our day-to-day life.
The film is rooted in repetition. Certain scenes are repeated constantly throughout the movie, whether it be Paterson and Laura waking up together, Paterson walking to or from work, him asking his colleague how he is or a montage of the city as he drives his bus. Bordering on boring, the repetition expresses a very pertinent truth about most people’s lives. Day after day we do the same things, see the same people, and travel through the same places.
This repetition is contrasted through the personal stories of people we hear on his bus. The repetitive and mundane process of driving the bus allows us to hear the stories of the passengers, showing how the mundane is inevitably linked to the personal. Paterson’s poetry furthers this by expressing his deep feelings of love through everyday things like matches, having a beer or windshield blades. The seemingly lifeless is blended with the violently emotive.
Laura’s and Paterson’s relationship is an embodiment of this clash between the mundane and the personal. They are the two sides of a person. One side goes out to work, calm and generally quite devoid of energy. The other jumps around everywhere excitedly, baking and learning a new instrument. But neither of these is independent of the other. Paterson’s work is mixed in with his personal poetry, the words of his poems appearing on screen as he drives the bus, whilst Laura’s baking ends up making money, as she expresses the hope that one day it might turn into business finally gaining the legitimacy of work, whatever strings might be attached to that.
The morning scenes further this. The two wake up together from Monday to Thursday. Throughout the working week the creative and the mundane are connected and embrace each other. On Friday Paterson wakes up alone, Laura already in the kitchen decorating her cupcakes, the creative sensing the end of the traditional work week, ready to embrace freedom. On Saturday Laura wakes Paterson up whilst laying on top of him, the creative is now in charge and ready to go. On Sunday we see Laura distressed, and Paterson sitting on the side of the bed, both recovering from the fact Paterson’s poems have been destroyed. On one hand both are experiencing the slow approach of the work week beginning again, but they are also struggling to cope with the apparent destruction of Paterson’s creativity, a crucial aspect of his life during his work as a bus driver. The viewer feels an inescapable sense of loss; the dread of going through work without the bright light of creative expression rearing its head throughout the week. Monday begins as it did at the start of the movie, the two embrace each other. Peace has been found when Paterson was gifted a new journal and begun writing poetry again. The balance between the creative and the mundane has been revived.
Laura’s creativity is unforgettable, and soon the viewer spots her varyingly sized circles everywhere whether it be on the cupcakes or around the house. Her colour scheme is black and white, seemingly boring and not the explosiveness you’d expect after seeing her personality. But through the use of varying patterns and how they appear irregular in an otherwise ordinary world they stand out with a severe intensity.
Paterson manages to express the struggles of working life through a personal story of two people who are very much in love. Paterson’s week expresses the contrast between the seemingly emotionless aspects of repetitive work, and the irrepressible persistence of the personal and the creative throughout one’s days.