As with others of Jarmusch's movies, Paterson stays away from conventional storytelling in many ways. Although there are a few moments of tension here and there, no grand conflict emerges. There is no great battle in which the protagonist must engage, and if he changes at all, it is only in the subtlest of ways. But this is what makes a movie like this special. Like the best poetry, the movie is a beautifully captured portrait of something special which goes unnoticed by virtually everyone around it. There doesn't need to be a profound message or lesson to it. Instead, the purpose of a movie like this is to show us something in the world that is, while ostensibly mundane, filled with moments that can inspire awe and joy. Paterson may not be an outwardly impressive person, but he's found a sort of balanced happiness in his simple life. If one weren't privy to his inner thoughts, it might seem strange and even extremely boring. But by showing us the man's inner world through his poetry, we can get a far better idea of how and why he lives a wonderfully fulfilling life, as he sees and defines it.
Paterson will not be for everyone. It has a calm, deliberate pace, and a purposeful lack of high drama. Those who enjoy more traditional stories in which a hero emerges, faces down some form of antagonist, and ultimately triumphs, will perhaps not have the patience for this movie. It is a long piece of Zen poetry cast onto film. For those in the mood for such a thing, you'll likely find this one to be a modern masterpiece. It's not a movie that I'll feel the need to watch again and again, but I am quite sure that I will eventually be in the right state of mind to again take in and appreciate the sublime portrait that Jarmusch has created for us.