Will McAuliffe’s review published on Letterboxd:
Changed my review to 5 stars after viewing a second time. Liking Murakami is not a prerequisite to loving this movie but definitely enhances it. Below I echo what this article describes in more detail:
I've never read "barn burning" (but definitely plan to now), but Murakami's work has common plots, motifs, and themes that to me feel difficult to adapt to the screen. But this film manages to capture three essential elements of his style. First, the protagonist is constantly frustrated by a lack of complete information, usually due to supporting characters who are not forthcoming or speak in tongues. Some movies do use this trope, such as David Lynch movies. But unlike Lynch's work, in Burning the critical knowledge is withheld in a more low-key way that is not meant to intentionally confuse and provoke the viewer. Rather, with every incremental stone the protagonist turns over to solve the mystery we learn just how in the dark he is.
Second, the protagonist is an average Joe who does totally mundane things while the surrounding world gets progressively stranger. The long-ish running time of the film allows to see the protagonist live out many undramatic scenes that paint a precise contrast of his life and that of his antagonist. The protagonist's lack of exceptional qualities serves less to help the viewer relate than to underline that his battle is an uphill one.
Third, Murakami's love of western literature and music is also peppered throughout the film. And yet the movie couldn't feel further away from Hollywood.