The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil

John Curran (2006)

12A Certificate


Our Score
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.


An English doctor's wife in 1920s China has an affair with a politician. When her husband finds out, he plots revenge by forcing her to accompany him on a mercy mission to a remote disease-ravaged village - but the hardship of their journey gives them a new perspective on their relationship. Period drama based on W Somerset Maugham's novel, starring Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Diana Rigg and Toby Jones.

Cast & Crew

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

Language: English, Mandarin +subtitlesColourTheatrical distributor: Momentum PicturesGuidance: A sex scene, brief nudity.Available on: DVDReleased on: 27 Apr 2007