‘The Painted Veil’ movie review: Norton, Watts shine in luscious adaptation


Faithful, somber adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham´s classic novel is well-made all around, though like its characters, remains somewhat aloof for the duration.

Naomi Watts stars as Kitty, a young socialite who agrees to marry bacteriologist Walter Fane (Edward Norton) though she doesn´t really love him. Walter, however, is deeply in love with her, and leaving for Shanghai; Kitty makes her decision based on social pressures and a desire to get as far away from her mother as possible.

Once in Shanghai, she almost immediately has an affair with British official Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber); when Walter finds out, he volunteers to help fight cholera in a remote village as a kind of punishment for his wife, who is more or less forced to accompany him.

Source material is affecting and intriguing, and that the film stays true to the literary roots makes it worthy of admiration, even if it occasionally suffers cinematically; it´s often slow-moving, and due to the characters´ relationship, toned down emotionally.

Watts and Norton are effective as the leads, though they fail to truly engage the viewer; supporting cast is better, especially Toby Jones as a civil servant Waddington, Liev Schreiber as Townsend, and Diana Rigg as Mother Superior.

Stunning Chinese locations, beautiful cinematography, luscious atmosphere. Excellent, haunting original score by Alexandre Desplat.

The Painted Veil


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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