Tokyo 1968. Students around the world are uniting to overthrow the establishment and Watanabe's personal life is similarly in tumult. Deeply devoted to his first love, Naoko, their complex bond is threatened when the outgoing, vivacious Midori marches into his life, forcing Watanabe to choose between his past and his future.
Based on the book by Haruki Murakami Norwegian Wood tells the story of Toru, whose memory is triggered by hearing the song that also acts as the movie’s title, taking him back to his life as young man in the 1960’s. After his close friend Kizuki commits suicide Toru and his Kizuki’s girlfriend Naoko grow close, brought together by their mutual grief; struggling to come to terms with the loss Toru also finds himself inexplicably drawn to another woman, Midori.
The unusual love triangle story is well acted and intriguing, deftly avoiding many of the cliché’s of Hollywood through some expert acts of direction and cinematography. Unfortunately however the movie lacks the structural capacity to really delve into the darker depths of the story; leaving it in a limbo somewhere between indulgent cliché and real drama.
The visual setting of the late 1960’s is beautifully constructed and explored to its full potential thanks to the cinematography skills of Mark Lee Ping Bin, whilst the political friction that runs in the story’s undercurrent is brilliantly played and manipulated to compliment the disillusionment and pain experienced by Toru and his peers.
With music written by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood Norwegian Wood stands to be both depressing and enlightening, capturing that sad hopeful feeling in the way only Radiohead fans can appreciate. Ultimately however the evocative music lacks a strong narrative to support, leaving the score the flesh on the skeleton of the story.
Lovers of the original novel will likely be shocked by the severe trimming that has removed a great deal of the strength and weight of the story, leaving it somewhat thin and underwhelming.