Much like the scrawled words in the titular characters notebook, Paterson rolls out slowly and deliberately. Like his vocation, even though the story doesn't seem to really go anywhere, the ride is still pleasant.
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver Paterson, NJ. The film follows him through his day to day routine which for the most part repeats with minor variations. He goes to work, comes home, and visits the bar while walking his wife Laura's (Goldshifteh Farahani) dog. He's always listening to other people, whether it's on the bus, at the bar, or at home listening to his wife gush about her many creative aspirations and endeavors. This feeds into his hobby, which is writing poetry, which he keeps to himself.
That's pretty much the lot of it. There's no central conflict and for the most part, none of the characters have an arc of any sort. Something about the characters though kept me engaged. Rather than telling a story, the film is more or less a sequence of character beats. Each time he hits the regular spots, the encounters build on what happened the day before. Given the slow but steady pacing, this isn't too jarring. We also get nice little peeks into the deeper lives of some of the secondary characters such as the bartender Doc's (Barry Shabaka Henley) love of chess.
And Adam Driver is a wonderful tour guide throughout. On the surface, he just seems meek and timid, but following him around for a while and you realize he's just more interested in listening than talking; taking in as much of other people and processing it into his art. His relationship with Laura seems off-balance at first, but by the end, the audience can better understand how they work and what they do for each other.
Paterson invites the audience to look under the surface and see what can be hiding under the most seemingly mundane exterior, both in Paterson himself, and in the world around him interpreted through his poetry. Through stylistic choices some filmmakers are just unmistakable in their works. If you've ever been charmed by anything Jim Jarmusch has done, or if you're after a film that gives itself room to breathe, this one won't disappoint.