Review: Norwegian Wood

It has taken decades for Haruki Murakami's 1987 best-selling novel to reach the big screen but finally Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung has grasped the nettle.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the 1960s student protests in Tokyo, the Japanese author's melancholic tale of love, grief and mental illness is slight but much loved and tends to linger in the memory of those that read it. It's a testament to how well this thoughtfully abridged adaptation has been done then that the film offers much the same feel.

Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) has been deeply scarred by the inexplicable suicide of her childhood soul mate, Kizuki (Kengo Kora). The dead girl's best friend from all those years ago, Toru Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama), crosses paths with Naoko again as a 19-year-old university student and he fans the flames of romance.

She is less sure of her feelings and seeks sanctuary in a hilltop mental institution, from where the couple conducts an awkward affair.

Toru's affections are distracted by the arrival of seductive and alluring Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), who already has a boyfriend but is extremely generous with her affections.

The film has an unhurried pace but is never boring and the performances are uniformly excellent.

The director uses prowling camera movements, colour and the backdrop of revolutionary upheaval to emphasis the emotional story. Best of all, perhaps inevitably for a story named after a Beatles song, is the use of music, from a subtle score from Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood to Krautrock stalwart Can's tear-jerker Mary, Mary So Contrary.

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Norwegian Wood (15)

Director: Tran Anh Hung

With: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi, Kiko Mizuhara, Reika Kirishima, Kengo Kora, Eriko Hatsume.

Length: 133 mins