The Painted Veil

  • 12
  • John Curran (2006)
  • US / Chi (SUB)
  • 119 min
The Painted Veil
Film Review
Reviewed By
3 out of 5

W Somerset Maugham's classic novel gets a third movie adaptation in this handsome period romance. Re-teaming director John Curran with his We Don't Live Here Anymore star Naomi Watts, it's an elegant slow burner in which an adulterous wife gradually finds redemption through her husband's cruel vengeance. Edward Norton plays the earnest English bacteriologist who hastily weds socialite Watts and relocates her to 1920s Shanghai. However, the couple's incompatibility becomes apparent when she begins an affair, prompting him to retaliate by accepting a job in a remote, cholera-ravaged village and forcing her to accompany him. The leads deliver performances that are immaculate yet detached, keeping their characters' emotional conflict simmering beneath the surface. This internalised passion dilutes the narrative's potency and feels incongruous among the vivid Chinese landscapes and atmospheric historical detail. Fortunately, events are enlivened by Toby Jones's spirited support as the raffish deputy commissioner, while an award-winning score complements the ravishing visuals.

Plot Summary

Period romance starring Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Toby Jones. In 1925, British bacteriologist Walter and socialite Kitty marry hastily and relocate to Shanghai in China. But their incompatibility becomes apparent when Kitty promptly falls in love with someone else. Discovering her betrayal, Walter plans a terrible revenge - taking a job in a remote, cholera-ravaged village and forcing her to accompany him or face social disgrace.

Cast and crew


Kitty Fane
Naomi Watts
Walter Fane
Edward Norton
Charlie Townsend
Liev Schreiber
Toby Jones
Mother Superior
Diana Rigg
Colonel Yu
Anthony Wong (1)


John Curran

Other Information

English, Mandarin +subtitles
Theatrical distributor: 
Momentum Pictures
A sex scene, brief nudity.
Available on DVD
Released 27 Apr 2007
Certificate 12