Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, he writes poetry into a notebook; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer; he goes home to his wife, Laura. By contrast, Laura's world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily. The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
Film (like all art) is not so much judged on its story as on its effect. Thus, a story can be exotic and rare or bland and commonplace. Yet if it bears down upon a viewer in some way in the telling, then it has done its work and can be measured somewhere on a scale, up or down. This film bore upon me in an odd way.
For all it’s atmosphere of blandness, I couldn’t stop watching because of the curious monotony that bore upon me, and then I began to question why this guy with his rather dead personality sits in a bar each night when his vivacious, fascinating and adoring wife waits at home. I wondered why he doesn’t accompany her when she goes to sell her cupcakes at the fair, just to watch her, to share with her the new experience and to be enriched by it in common with her, and yes, to offer his own contributions to it, to help her set up her new concession? Why is he such a droll and ignorant failure in this? So, i guess I still watched on, in agitated wonder.
Oh yes, his introversion is extreme and she accepts him for it, wholly and willingly and sincerely. What a lucky guy he is. What an unusual thing in today’s world. Yet, you sense too the underlying tragedy that seems poised to arrive in this seeming unbalance. And so we wait for the hammer to fall. We know it will. Life always drops that hammer. Will he come home finally to an empty house one day, her bags gone? Well the dog she adores be stolen from outside that bar where he idiotically leaves it each night as he sits inside? What uncertainty of life will strike this sweet (temporarily, surely!) couple? Each moment I expect it. And truly the tension inside me grew.
And so we watch, riveted, uncertain, even bothered by the sameness, and knowing that life does allow for such utter simplicity, for such sequestering of common happiness into a small world of quiet and contentment. No, that can’t happen. It won’t happen for long. And the continual dreams of Laura with her eye always to the future and her overwhelming energetic daily creativity which hints that the temporal nature of their existence will not last in face of the uncertainty that destiny always holds and which she herself seeks.
And yet, still we see within his monotonic existence that he possesses a kernel of some real, living and purely simple and rather uniquely honest core within him. He is the uncontrived soul. A rarity of sorts. He is the “holy man” unrealized, you might say. The flawed man with the flawless insides. Because not every human being will meet their truer destiny, nor reach their highest potential, just as the seed blown beneath the overbearing canopy of a great and majestic oak, will not bloom so brightly and keenly as his brothers out in the full sunlight of the common field. This is just how it is. This is Patterson.
When you realize this, then some of the scenes take on more impact, such as that of the gangbangers in their car who seem oddly to accept, even appreciate the rare and unadorned simplicity at the depths of this common man on this common sidewalk with his dog, who can be slyly witty with them, unaffected and unafraid of the outward mantle of the canny street thug who lives by wit and violence. He only sees and addresses the brother human inside them, and they sense it, even value it. And so the gangbanger accepts him in like manner, human to human in a single little encounter, a unique and passing moment of Patterson’s life which is itself a string of such passing moments. His life is a dull walking poem with an occasional pithy line that opens a mental door. Okay. I can accept that. And it’s observed too in the little scene of the young girl reading her poem to him that bears impact. Such an innocent voice to bring heavy insight in all its simplicity. Yes, this is the life of Patterson — a microscope of every life.
The ending scene of the film with the Japanese poet at the waterfall was contrived, a piece of artifice that anyone can see thru. I find such things unforgivable in film and yet, I could overlook it this time, I found I could forgive it this once as it served to nicely open to the door (no mater how hokey) to the restoration of Patterson back onto his path, after a stunning loss. And so then the film closes and it revealed to me that “sameness,” that stability in this unstable wold can be restored, and so his and Laura’s lives picked up where they left off. And this was the end of the story, a clean and final statement that catastrophe which I waited for, doesn't always come. Not yet. It's put off for another day, and maybe … well maybe it can be put off for a whole life. I quite liked that thought.