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Norwegian Wood (2012)


Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 61
Fresh: 45
Rotten: 16

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 21
Fresh: 14
Rotten: 7

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 6,095


Movie Info

Tokyo, the late 1960s...Students around the world are uniting to overthrow the establishment and Toru Watanabe's personal life is similarly in tumult. At heart, he is deeply devoted to his first love, Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman. But their complex bond has been forged by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Watanabe lives with the influence of death everywhere. That is, until Midori, a girl who is everything that Naoko is not - outgoing, vivacious, supremely … More

Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
In Theaters:
May 15, 2012
Box Office:
Independent Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Norwegian Wood

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (21) | Fresh (45) | Rotten (16)

The acting in the film is key. Every moment by Ken'ichi Matsuyama as Watanabe and Rinko Kikuchi as Naoko is valid yet seems distilled by memory rather than presented raw.

Full Review… | June 19, 2013
The New Republic
Top Critic

We cover years at a bound, but when we light, we tend to spend long, lingering moments through the camera's loving eye. This is a beautiful film to see.

Full Review… | March 15, 2012
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Tran has drained the life right out of the novel.

Full Review… | March 2, 2012
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

It becomes a film that, like its characters, remains elusive in its motivations and therefore detached from its audience.

Full Review… | March 1, 2012
Toronto Star
Top Critic

A master of mood and visuals, Tran proves an inspired choice.

Full Review… | February 2, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It's sweet all the way up, wavers in dread and slides down to doom.

Full Review… | January 19, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Like its source material from Haruki Murakami, this is a beautiful film that exquisitely captures grief and sadness, and unsurprisingly, it probably won't help you if you're suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

Full Review… | August 15, 2013
The Playlist

Director Tran Anh Hung would much rather show than tell but he never wants to brag about what he's showing.

Full Review… | March 4, 2013

... suffused in melancholia, with imagery as delicate as the lives it presents and atmospheres so fragile they look like they'd shatter under too much emotional pressure.

Full Review… | May 19, 2012

Like an old memory that never loses its hold, "Norwegian Wood" stays with you.

Full Review… | May 16, 2012
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

As melancholy and fragile and at times even as lovely as the John Lennon composition from which it borrows its name...

Full Review… | March 19, 2012
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

An angsty (albeit sensual) tale of great love and great loss.

Full Review… | March 2, 2012
Jam! Movies

It doesn't hit you head on so much as seep into you, and its effects linger.

Full Review… | March 1, 2012

It's most likely to appeal to fans of the Haruki Murakami novel on which it's based, and they're the least likely to enjoy it.

Full Review… | January 26, 2012
St. Paul Pioneer Press

The mood is downbeat and the characters are slow to warm to the audience, yet Hung creates some visually striking imagery.

Full Review… | January 20, 2012

The juxtaposing of nature and three young lovers make this film a feast for the eyes and the heart.

Full Review… | January 8, 2012
Monsters and Critics

It takes no significant liberties with the plot, and it captures the novel's delicate, half-hopeful, half-mournful tone. So why, unlike its source material, does it feel only half-alive?

Full Review… | January 6, 2012

Audience Reviews for Norwegian Wood

A lovely adaptation of Murakami's astonishing novel. Norwegian Wood is the Murakami book that I think shouldn't be used as an introduction to his worlk. So seeing it as a film I can perfectly understand the film's mixed reviews. This isn't the most approachable film in the world. At times it has a strong story going on, but then becomes more of a visual feast, before jumping long distances of time while trying to maintain the chemistry between characters. It is a story of change, loss, and moving on, with a sense of emptiness that is very haunting in the most meditative kind of way. Matsuyama and Kikuchi are a gorgeous couple both in terms of their looks, and the passion they clearly hold for each other. The film's biggest drawback is the sporadic use of voiceover, which can only hint at the involving narrative it is taken from. With its absence throughout the majority of the film, the fairly blunt dialogue and explorations of sexuality can seem in your face. More of a visual companion to the novel than a stand alone film, it's still a very interesting piece which will hopefully inspire more adaptations of Murakami's works.

Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer


I can't believe the ratings for this movie are so low! I found it quite lovely and very sad. I was in tears by the end of it.
Filmed beautifully with effective soundtrack. I really liked both of the damaged females here, particularly Midori. Hard to explain the story, it's not hard to follow, but sometimes hard to understand the characters motivations.
I haven't read the book, so I don't know if that's why the negative reviews, but on its own, this is an excellent movie.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


"The grief over a death of someone you loved can never be healed. We can only live with the sorrow and learn something out of it."

Upon hearing the song "Norwegian Wood," Toru (Matsuyama) remembers back to his life in the 1960s, when his friend Kizuki killed himself and he grew close to Naoko, Kizuki's girlfriend. As the two try, in very different ways, to contend with their grief, Toru forms a bond with another woman, Midori.

Its hard to review a film like this when you've been looking forward to it so much. While its not my favorite of his books, I'm a big Haruki Murakami fan, and I love Anh Hung Tran's earlier films - I thought this was potentially a match made in heaven.

The film is good - very good. Just not the great film I'd hoped it would be. There are wonderful scenes and great acting, and the cinematography is beautiful. But I think there are some major flaws. The flow of the film is oddly disjointed at times - while the book is very much written from the perspective of an older, wiser man looking back at his immature youth, the film seems unsure of its own perspective. The voice-over is poorly structured, seemingly aimed at filling in narrative gaps rather than giving us the older narrators overview. Oddly for Tran, a director who has been extremely minimalist in the past, some scenes are far too overwrought, not helped by the intrusive and anachronistic score. The casting is also uneven - Rinko Kikuchi is a marvelous actress, but is simply too old to play a convincing 20 year old. The character of Reiko is also played by an actress much younger than the character in the book, but the part hasn't been changed accordingly. That said, Kenichi Matsuyama as Toru and in particular Kiko Mizuhara as Midori are terrific.

I really don't know how someone who doesn't know the book will react to this. I suspect that if you are a romantic at heart, you will like it, even if you find it a bit overlong and some of the characters too thinly drawn. Fans of the book will mostly love it as it is quite faithful (maybe too faithful) to the story.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

I┤ve never seen such a terrible and painful adaptation like this Norwegian Wood. Haruki Murakami┤s novel, even if full of literary references, is still an easy or accessible book what, I knew, could be used for the best or for the worst. The thing is that what I expected of worst was a sort of pretentious indie film and not that Anh Hung Tran would kill the main points and characteristics of the story to transform it in a beautiful and acceptable garbage. Who claims that the film is faithful to the novel, probably have not read it, unless the English translation is really that different from the original in Japanese.*

If you haven┤t read Murakami┤s novel, you can like this film. If you did, you┤ll feel like killing youself and right in the first scenes. Nagazawa would never, never, say that "Life is short. There's no sense in wasting time on books in a sense of time is absent."

When I did finally meet the one person in my world who had read Gatsby, he and I became friends because of it. His name was Nagasawa. (...) He was a far more voracious reader than me, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least 30 years.
"That's the only kind of book I can trust," he said. "It's not that I don't believe in contemporary literature," he added, "but I don't want to waste valuable time reading any book that has not had the baptism of time. Life is too short."
"What kind of authors do you like?" I asked, speaking in respectful tones to this man two years my senior.
"Balzac, Dante, Joseph Conrad, Dickens," he answered without hesitation.

How to take it serious and keep watching a film that visibly pretends nothing but please the mass? Perhaps, everything is allowed in an adaptation, but to completely change the story is going too far. Nagazawa is only one of the many faults. Naoko and Midori are played by very beautiful girls, but Midori is too far away of the "complexity" of her character. The fact that she is always smiling when Naoko has her dark moments doesn┤t say anything at all. Simplistic justifications, simplistic and na´ve love stories when Toru┤s relationship with both Naoko and Midori and even with life itself was much more complex. Oh, and I will not even mention Reiko that simple and totally loses all her importance here.

Shallow chords and a trivial course.

*I just got a PDF copy of the English translation and now I can say with conviction that no, it┤s not that different from the one I read. Those who think that the film is faithful to the book, or did not read it or really don┤t have any sense of anything.

** The Beatle┤s Norwegian Wood was Naoko┤s favorite song that Reiko only played when she asked her to because the song put Naoko very sad.

Rubia Carolina

Super Reviewer

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