To criticise Paterson is to try to fit it into a box it isn’t made to fit. You might think the film lacks enough plot, or humour, or drama but it has exactly as much plot, humour, and drama as writer-director Jim Jarmusch wants it to have. If you dislike Paterson then you and Jarmusch are just going to have to agree to disagree.
In Paterson we spend seven days in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), and to a lesser extent his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), as he goes about his business. Every day Paterson gets up, walks to work, drives a bus around the city of Paterson, walks home, briefly indulges in Laura’s latest fantasy, and then walks their dog to his local bar. Lather, rinse, repeat. In his spare moments Paterson write poems; beautifully mundane poems about small moments written for the film by Ron Padgett. Laura urges Paterson to share his poems but he seems content to live his life and keep his poems as a private expression.
Paterson has no dramatic plot twists, emotional blowouts, or stunning visuals. Like Paterson’s poetry Paterson delights in the minutiae of day-to-day life and the film, running to nearly two hours, allows you to soak up Paterson’s daily routine. As you become familiar with the patterns of Paterson’s days the repetition becomes reassuring and comforting, and the tiny differences leap out at you in all their insignificance. If Paterson is a poem then each day makes up a verse with plenty of rhyming in between.
Adam Driver is the perfect man to tackle this understated role; his expressive face says so much as his character says so little. He plays Paterson as a humble man who keeps his own emotions to himself while absorbing everything from those around him. As a constant observer it is easy to easy to see how Paterson might come to express himself through prose. As his bus moves inconspicuously through the city so Paterson goes unnoticed in the town that is his namesake taking us along for the ride. Paterson, and Paterson, teaches us to look and listen and revel in the details. By the end of the film we might as well be Paterson; few films will have you this absorbed in the life of their lead character.
A perfect unassuming film that celebrates the undramatic wonder of the everyday, Paterson is a charmer. Just don’t go expecting anything explosive.
Paterson is out in UK cinemas now.
It all starts so sweetly and optimistically there’s no way you will see the end coming. Hungry Hearts begins with a meeting in a single shot between the two leads as they become trapped in a tiny bathroom cubicle together. Romantic cinematic convention dictates that any two people who meet in such adorable circumstances are destined to be together forever and so that is how I assumed this film would end. How wrong I was.
After meeting in a toilet Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) are soon living together. When Mina is faced with moving back to her native Italy Jude quickly impregnates and marries her, trapping her in New York indefinitely. After their wedding Mina starts to have nightmares and sees a psychic who tells her how the unborn child inside her will be an indigo child; a pure child sent down from above. This plants a seed in Mina’s head and once the baby is born she strives to keep him clean by imposing a strict vegan diet. The birth of their son drives a wedge between Jude and Mina as Jude struggles to get close to the child and ensure he is getting the nutrients he needs and Mina spends months cooped up inside growing ever closer to her baby.
From its indie romance feel at the start Hungry Hearts slowly evolves into a horror in the style of Rosemary’s Baby. Instead of a mother expecting a demon child there is a mother who thinks her child is so special that she herself becomes a monster and threatens her child’s safety. I might have been expecting a romantic drama but what I got instead was a dread filled feature of unrelenting tension and fear for each character. There are no doubt feminist debates to have over the representation of the monster mother but if we put those aside we are left with a gripping and surprising romantic thriller on an intimate scale.
Rohrwacher is perfect as the initially frail but adorable Mina who soon turns into a dangerously protective figure. There are many moments when it is impossible to tell what Mina might do next as Rohrwacher gives her a frenzied look of love and fear; two emotions that lead to limitless unpredictability. Driver as Jude gives another powerful nuanced performance. Driver oozes sensitivity but his body is also powerful and a violent outburst always seems to be lurking just beneath the surface.
Italian director Saverio Costanzo has crafted a tough drama that starts sweet but ends with an explosive and unpredictable final act. Hungry Hearts is a film of slow evolution in tone and genre as romance turns to mistrust and comedy turns to drama. The resulting film is not necessarily pleasant but it is skillfully put together and altogether frightening.
Not one to watch when you’re expecting.
Hungry Hearts has no UK release date yet but screens at the London Film Festival on the 14th, 16th, and 17th of October 2014.
When it comes to the latest film by the Coen brothers I pretty much just want to tell you that it’s a great film, both funny and moving and blah blah blah, and for you to just go to see it. This is Joel and Ethan Coen we’re talking about here, they don’t really make bad films. Ok, so they have made a couple of false moves but no one’s perfect; Judi Dench did a cameo in Run for Your Wife after all. If you need more convincing I will go on…
At the centre of Inside Llewyn Davis is, surprisingly, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) a folk singer in early 1960s New York. Davis has hit hard times and doesn’t have a home, a consistent gig, or a stable relationship. We follow him during one terrible week as he hits even harder times which involve an unwanted pregnancy, a creative compromise, and a ginger cat with a habit of running away. We see a man at his lowest ebb who is forced to reconsider his dreams in favour of actually making a living.
The Coens work their usual visual magic and Inside Llewyn Davis has its own distinct look with a limited pallet of browns and greys and a slightly soft sheen to shots that allows the blacks to deepen and makes skin, particularly on Carey Mulligan, positively glow. You’ll have to see the film to understand what I’m wittering on about. The film is set in a harsh winter and the muted colours that leave everything looking infinitely colder. While everyone is wrapped up warm in heaps of attractive knitwear poor Llewyn doesn’t even have a winter coat making him seem all the more pathetic as he shivers within the stark scenery.
Inside Llewyn Davis is about a failing musician so does feature a lot of scenes of a man in dire straights and is not without pathos but this doesn’t mean that the film loses its sense of humour. The screening room erupted with laughter throughout the film as little nuggets of comedy gold were mined by the fine array of character actors at work. The Coens are so often at their best when holding up relatively unsympathetic leads for our amusement and somehow end up earning our sympathy.
When the crowd fell into a hushed silence it was as we all listened in awe to one of the films numerous musical performances. Inside Llewyn Davis is not a musical but with musicians as its core characters there are frequent performances during which we are treated to the entire songs rather than just snippets. These heart-felt folksy tunes are mostly sung by Isaac himself who has a beautiful voice and he was occasionally joined by the likes of Mulligan and Justin Timberlake who aren’t too shabby either. Timberlake plays a gloriously saccharin singer of cheesy songs, the recording session of one of his songs is a film highlight, and Mulligan his unfaithful wife.
This is a film with soul and on the Coen brothers scale sits most easily alongside A Serious Man in quality and in tone. A decent proper film with no gimmicks or distractions Inside Llewyn Davis is a lovely way to spend a cold afternoon.
Inside Llewyn Davis screens at the festival on the 15th, 17th and 19th October and is in UK cinemas on 24th January 2014.