Paterson (2016) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.

  • Exactly one week in the life of a young man named Paterson of Paterson, New Jersey is presented. He lives an extremely regimented and routinized life, that routine perhaps most vividly displayed by the fact that he is able to wake up at exactly the same time every day without an alarm. That life includes eating Cheerios for breakfast, walking to work carrying his brown bag lunch packed in his lunch pail by his wife Laura, having a casual chat with his colleague Donny before he begins his shift driving the #23 Paterson bus for the local public transit company, walking home where he straightens out the exterior mailbox which somehow during the day gets knocked crooked, eating dinner with Laura and listening to her goings-on of the day, taking Laura's English bulldog Marvin - who he would admit to himself he doesn't much like - out for a walk to his neighborhood bar where he has one and only one beer before walking home with Marvin. There are day to day variations which are often the result of how certain other routines associated to him manifest themselves, such as what drama will occur in the relationship of Marie and Everett who are always at the bar together despite her always saying that they are no longer together, or in what form Laura's unique and distinctive design sense will affect Paterson's life directly or indirectly. Paterson's keen observances of what happens around him are largely the bases for the poems he writes, he constantly thinking of these and writing them in his secret notebook whenever he has a spare moment during his day. He is influenced by among others Paterson natives such as William Carlos Williams and his epic poem "Paterson". Paterson's writing are largely for himself, although Laura would like him to share more with her and the rest of the world. Something that happens to Paterson this week has the potential to knock his routinized world into a tailspin.

  • The film shows one week, beginning with Monday, in the life of Paterson, a bus driver from the city of Paterson, New Jersey. Every day follows much the same pattern: Paterson gets up early and goes to drive his bus, where he listens to the passengers talking and, during pauses, writes poetry in a notebook he is carrying with him. When he comes home after work he takes Marvin, his wife's dog, out for a walk and makes a stop at his bar for a beer, where he observes the other patrons and the owner, Doc, interacting..

  • Paterson is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey - they share the name. 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.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film follows one week in the life of Paterson, a bus driver in the city of Paterson. Each day follow the same routine. Paterson, sleeping beside his girlfriend, Laura, wakes up around the same time, roughly 6:10 to 6:30. The time varies because he doesn't use an alarm clock. He also, as we find out later, doesn't own a cellphone. He eats breakfast and walks to work, composing poetry in his head. On the bus, he jots down his poetry ideas in a notebook that he shares with no one but Laura. He drive his route and visits Paterson Falls on his lunch break. When he comes home, he finds that Laura has been doing some artistic project, such as painting the drapes or painting a dress. Her artistic creations are always in black and white. Laura has many ambitions. She wants to start a cupcake business. She convinces Paterson to buy her a $600 guitar and instructional package, so she can become a country music star. (She has never played the guitar.)

    At the end of each day, Paterson takes their bulldog for a walk, leaving him outside the local bar while he goes in for a beer and a chat with the owner. A woman is there who is trying to ditch her boyfriend, who plea with her to give him another chance.

    The routine varies a little each day. One day, he meets a girl who is writing poems in her own secret notebook. Paterson doesn't tell her that he is also a poet. She reads a poem to her which he later recites to Laura. On another evening, in the bar, the boyfriend threatens to shoot himself, and Paterson disarms him. The gun, it turns out, is a toy. On Friday, his bus breaks down, and he has to call for help with a phone borrowed from a passenger.

    For the weekend, Laura has prepared a cupcakes (decorated in lack and white, naturally) to sell in the farmer's market. When she returns, she has made almost $300. They go out to celebrate, leaving the dog behind. When they return, they find that the dog has chewed up and destroyed Paterson's precious notebook. He had promised Laura to make a photocopy, but he hasn't gotten around to it.

    Paterson goes to the Falls to be alone with his thoughts. There he meets a Japanese tourist who is reading a volume of William Carlos Williams's poetry. The man is a poet who wants to see the hometown of Williams. Paterson does not tell him that he too is a poet. When the man leaves, he gives Paterson a gift - a blank notebook. Paterson begins composing poetry again.

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