The Painted Veil

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
The trailer for this third screen rendition of W Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel seems to promise a tourist-brochure narrative along the lines of ‘How Cholera Saved My Marriage’, but this handsome, adeptly performed production delivers more, if not quite enough. Flighty socialite Kitty (Naomi Watts) is edging past her marriageable expiry date, and hastily weds uptight bacteriologist Walter (Edward Norton) – though not as swiftly as she falls into bed with a caddish diplomat (Liev Schreiber). Enraged, Walter packs himself and his meowing wife off to a cholera-stricken corner of rural China and refuses inoculations for them both. It seems that the nebbishy doctor has an edge after all, or maybe just a few worms on the brain.

Aided by the insider’s eye of Toby Jones’ dissolute colonialist and enlightened by the example of Diana Rigg’s posse of selfless nuns, silly Kitty becomes a better person, a process enlivened by Watts’ flinty vulnerability, her ineffable gift for illuminating a character’s inner life. Norton is fine, too, as a multifaceted man of science whose worth and motivations are hard to pin down, while Stuart Dryburgh’s rich cinematography and Alexandre Desplat’s voluptuous score ensure that ‘The Painted Veil’ is never less than a beautiful object. But the problem with the movie is not simply what it is but what it reiterates; it’s yet another period piece in which the revolutionary political context is significant only for how it reflects or complicates the white protagonists’ situation, yet another First World journey of self-discovery that uses Third World chaos as its vehicle.

By: Jessica Winter



Release details

Release date:
Friday April 27 2007
125 mins

Cast and crew

John Curran
Ron Nyswaner
Naomi Watts
Edward Norton
Liev Schreiber
Diana Rigg
Toby Jones
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