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Revisiting 'Paterson', Adam Driver's greatest role


Treading the tightrope of independent and mainstream cinema with careful footing, Adam Driver has proven time and time again that he is an actor made for the dynamism of the modern film industry. From dominating the cosmic skies of a galaxy far, far away in Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy, to embodying the life of a heartbroken soul in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, Driver is an actor of great physical stature and emotional gravity.

There are few actors that carry the same cultural resonance, becoming a fan favourite thanks to his mainstream roles whilst proving to the likes of Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Ridley Scott that he’s one of the finest acting talents of his generation. Most recently, the actor saved Leos Carax’s Annette from pompous navel-gazing, leading the line with a frenetic performance that remained one of the few sources of respite from the film’s unrelenting stampede. 

Adam Driver does this merely by bringing himself to the film and grounding it in reality, with his pondering, philosophical and almost shy approach to his own life and the world around him. Whilst he brings this energy to many of his films including Marriage Story, While We’re Young and Silence, no film better reflects Adam Driver’s potential as a performer as Paterson from director Jim Jarmusch. 

The 12th film from Dead Man and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai director Jim Jarmusch, Paterson sees Adam Driver as the titular bus driver and everyday philosopher who quietly observes life in smalltown America with a compelling appreciation for the most nuanced details of everyday existence. As ponderous and philosophical as many of Jarmusch’s films, Paterson sees little in the shape of narrative progression past the constant bus routes of Adam Driver’s character and the eclectic mix of passengers he picks up along the way.

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“I go through trillions of molecules that move aside to make way for me while on both sides trillions more stay where they are,” the character utters in a bassy voice over that is received with the same reverence as the dulcet tones of one David Attenborough or Morgan Freeman. Well encapsulating the essence of the film itself, Paterson’s influence ebbs and flows like the changing tides with Adam Driver as the driver of destiny happily plodding nowhere. 

In conversation with Dazed, Adam Driver reveals just how closely connected he finds himself and his Paterson character. When asked if he finds inspiration from observing his surroundings and meeting new people as his character does in the film, Driver replies: “Absolutely. It’s very much part of my job to be a spy, to have experiences and fail, to do things wrong and learn from experience, and to be in public and observe”. 

With Jarmusch even writing in a military history for Driver’s character in the film, reflecting a real-life occurrence, the actor embodies the lead role and makes Paterson a vehicle for his own genuine personality. Soft, slow and stoical, the film is a methodical work of genius from Jim Jarmusch that showcases the true depth and character of Adam Driver.

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