Metascore
58

Mixed or average reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 19
  2. Negative: 0 out of 19
  1. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jan 7, 2012
    90
    This is a wonderful, passionate, well-nigh unforgettable adaptation of a great novel about the horrors of love, and the wonderful fact that at least some of us live through it and come back for more.
  2. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
    Feb 2, 2012
    75
    Unabashedly weepy, lyrical in tone, and yet it cuts through the melodrama and stands as an honest depiction of young people who don't know all the answers but have the intellectual capacity to figure them out.
  3. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Jan 18, 2012
    75
    There is something in the nature of director Tran Anh Hung, however, that seems to resist happy endings. In the emotional arc of his art, the high point seems to be bittersweet. It's sweet all the way up, wavers in dread and slides down to doom.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jan 7, 2012
    75
    You can blissfully zone out on the director's pretty pictures, which is a permissible indulgence when the pictures are as delicately alluring as they are here. Also, the performances of Kikuchi and Hatsune are first-rate.
  5. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Jan 5, 2012
    67
    Admittedly lovely and heartfelt, Norwegian Wood is also hollow.
  6. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Jan 6, 2012
    65
    A movie like Norwegian Wood is a peculiar case – its intentions are sterling, and it's hard to pinpoint any technical flaws. The problem, maybe, is that it's trying too hard; Tran has such firm control over the storytelling that the resulting picture has no room to breathe.
  7. Reviewed by: Stephanie Merry
    Jan 6, 2012
    63
    At times, the story seems to exist in the instant between wakefulness and sleep, a dreamy state that's also startlingly realistic.
  8. Reviewed by: Fernando F. Croce
    Jan 2, 2012
    63
    Even if this Haruki Murakami adaptation amounts to a gorgeous but lethargic emo ballad, there's no denying the stately lyricism of its melancholy.
  9. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Jan 5, 2012
    60
    Fans of the book may resist the efforts of director Tran Anh Hung ("The Scent of Green Papaya"), simply because it would be impossible to capture the essence of Murakami's prose. But this exquisitely filmed, often haunting tragedy is worth taking on its own terms.
  10. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Jan 3, 2012
    60
    The fact that Norwegian Wood is based on Haruki Murakami's 1987 international best-seller should encourage many viewers to give this long, elegantly shot, sporadically involving Japanese film a try.
  11. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Jan 3, 2012
    60
    As a chronicle of grief and passion, however, the film is perilously close to being an exercise in tactile but touchy-feely passive-aggression.
  12. Reviewed by: Andrew Male
    Dec 31, 2011
    60
    Murakami's 'unadaptability' for the screen is self-evident to fans of his books, but this is a noble if bleak first stab.
  13. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    Jan 4, 2012
    58
    Tran's visual precision is betrayed by his jumbled script, which fails to impose a cinematic structure on the source material.
  14. 50
    This is the one Murakami work that would seem an ideal candidate for the leap from page to screen. It should be a good movie. But it isn't.
  15. Reviewed by: Ben Sachs
    Jan 19, 2012
    50
    In minimizing the novel's morbidity, Tran also denies its obsessive pull.
  16. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Jan 6, 2012
    50
    For a sex movie, Norwegian Wood is about as dry as a pocketful of sand. Even for a film set in a land that considers paper folding an exciting activity, this is dull stuff.
  17. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Jan 5, 2012
    50
    The film has the loose narrative structure of a quasi-poetic personal journal that is more a series of reflections than a cohesive story.
  18. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Jan 3, 2012
    50
    Lovely but listless.
  19. Reviewed by: Mark Holcomb
    Jan 3, 2012
    40
    Despite Hung's obvious gifts as a filmmaker, he has ditched this raw immediacy in favor of a drifty, overstuffed, ultimately dull melodrama.
User Score
7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 11 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of 2
  2. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Jan 19, 2012
    5
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. I can understand the confusion of a lot of reviewers after having seen this movie. The thing is, the atmosphere and the feelings painted so elegantly in the book are very difficult to apply to the screen. Still, a consistent narrative would have really helped, in a similar fashion to how, say, Edward Norton's character in fight club not only had dialogue, but also an outside narrative. With how quickly the movie progressed, there was little to no time to fall in love with the characters, and fully understand Toru's love for either Naoko or Midori. Ishida Reiko is also a severely underdeveloped character in the movie, especially for how big a role she played in the book.
    The entire depth of the feelings involved is lost as the director tries to move the story along quickly in order to cover major points in the book within just two hours.

    Some issues that could have been addressed (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD):

    The initial setting of the book where he is much older and on a plane in Germany when he begins to write the story would have been a great way to introduce the background narrative. Also, I think the last line of that first chapter really helps a lot in setting a tone for the story, as you watch his love for Naoko form and strengthen while in the back of your mind you already know she never loves him.

    I feel his roommate in college could have been cut out entirely in order to make more time developing the reason Kizuki was so special to both of them, giving a greater sense of tragedy when he commits suicide.

    The time before Naoko's institutionalization is also too short to let you understand why Toru would spend so much time and effort to hold onto her despite the time and distance they spend apart (not to mention that aside from the switch to winter, there's no sense of the amount of time that passes). There's a lot of movement and very little dialogue leading to the very important 20th birthday scene.

    The 20th birthday scene, though accurate, looked very different in my head. I think this had to do in part with the actress who played Naoko. I feel that the actresses who played Naoko and Hatsumi should've been switched, as their descriptions in the book would have been more accurate. The lighting also made the scene look sickly rather than deeply romantic.

    Midori's introduction could have had a little more lead-in. For instance, the main reason she approached him in the book is because he was always too distracted by thoughts of Naoko to call his name during roll in their class. This way, her introduction better models what was in the book, and it doesn't look like just a random "Oh, hey, yeah, we have a class together" as the only way you know they have a connection.

    Midori's tragic past story is also totally ignored. Despite being as beautiful as she is, the reason she's so odd, perverted, and yet strong is because of her history. If they weren't going to reveal that, then why even include those lines? They just make her seem like a random, weird girl instead of someone who's the product of a life of misery.

    The sexuality of the movie is also played in a strange manner. There is more intimacy with Naoko and less intimacy with strangers and Midori than was in the book. If they had built up their relationship before her institutionalization, they could have made their physical relationship as passive as it was in the book without sacrificing his developing affection for her. This could have saved more time for developing his relationship with Midori.

    Nagasawa's character is also horribly underdeveloped, and his influences and the things he teaches Toru are entirely neglected except the last part where he give him the advice that only **** feel sorry for themselves (which later becomes part of his motivation to come back home after mourning Naoko's death).

    There are a lot of other things that could have been tweaked, but all in all, compared to the vividly developed imagery of the book, the movie falls very short because of how rapidly it all progresses. While it's obvious that not all of Murakami's prose can be captured in the movie, tossing it entirely out the window just makes you feel frustrated as you watch each scene zip past without feeling anything for any of them.

    tl;dr Go read the book. Though people always say the book is better than the movie, the book is a real story with all these amazing descriptions and feelings. The movie is a cold statement of the events.
    Full Review »
  2. Jan 8, 2012
    4
    I don't know how to explain this, its a very weird film. I can tell its filled with a ton of symbolism but overall its more freaky than it isI don't know how to explain this, its a very weird film. I can tell its filled with a ton of symbolism but overall its more freaky than it is melodramatic. There seems to be incredibly weird and pointless scenes thrown in the movie. (not much of a spoiler but) theres one scene where she off-screen, gives him a handjob and you ponder how that is relevant to anything. The whole movie is a mess. I was only interested because Jonny Greenwood (guitarist of Radiohead) produced the music. There are some points the movie tries to get acorss, but its just really sloppy and weird. Full Review »