The Painted Veil

January 19th, 2007


The Painted Veil

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Still of Edward Norton and Naomi Watts in The Painted VeilJohn Curran in The Painted VeilEdward Norton and Naomi Watts at event of The Painted VeilStill of Edward Norton and Naomi Watts in The Painted VeilThe Painted VeilStill of Edward Norton in The Painted Veil

A British medical doctor fights a cholera outbreak in a small Chinese village, while also being trapped at home in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful wife.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 7.5/10 (38,069 voted)

Critic's Score: 69/100

Director: John Curran

Stars: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber

This love story has Kitty meeting young, intelligent, shy and somewhat dull Dr. Walter Fane, whose forte is the study of infectious diseases, and the convenient marriage that she finds herself committed to. It is in this web of intrigue that they head for China, only after Walter discovers Kitty's infidelity with one dashing and witty diplomat Charlie Townsend. So much as to hide her from herself and to help thwart a cholera outbreak, this is a marriage more than on the rocks. This is a cold, indifferent and loveless partnership in a vast unknown and deadly environment that will test both these flightless lovebirds and with the hardships and tolerances more than any had ever anticipated. A visual delight amid the pain and suffering of a dying people and failing marriage. Will a cure be found for both, before it's too late?

Writers: Ron Nyswaner, W. Somerset Maugham

Catherine An - Hostess
Bin Li - Te-Ming
Bin Wu - Student 1
Alan David - Mr. Garstin
Marie-Laure Descoureaux - Sister St. Joseph
Sally Hawkins - Mary (scenes deleted)
Juliet Howland - Dorothy Townsend
Toby Jones - Waddington
Lorraine Laurence - Sister Maryse
Johnny Lee - Angry Chinese Man
Li Feng - Sung Ching
Gesang Meiduo - Amah
Edward Norton - Walter Fane
Yin Qing - Student 2
Ian Renwick - Geoffrey Denison (as Ian Rennick)

Taglines: Forgiveness comes at a price


Official Website: Official site |

Release Date: 19 January 2007

Filming Locations: Beijing Film Studio, Beijing, China

Box Office Details

Budget: $19,400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $71,814 (USA) (24 December 2006)

Gross: $26,522,838 (Worldwide)

Technical Specs

Runtime: USA:  | Argentina:

Did You Know?

Nicole Kidman was considered for the leading role.

Continuity: During the love scene between Kitty And Walter, Kitty takes Walter's shirt off while they are kissing. In the next shot, Walter has his shirt back on and in the shot after that, when they are falling onto the bed, he has the shirt off again.

[opening lines]
Walter Fane: Hello.
Kitty Garstin: Hello.
Walter Fane: Say, I was wondering...
Kitty Garstin: What?
Walter Fane: Sorry. I - I was wondering if you'd like to dance.
Kitty Garstin: Why not?

User Review

Watts and Norton present The Painted Veil in vivid, true to life colors

Rating: 7/10

The Painted Veil has all of the elements a viewer looks for in a period piece set during the time of British colonial rule. Beautiful scenery and costumes, a cast of thousands, and enough background information to make you feel you are more educated about a time and place than you were before you saw the movie.

What this film offers the fortunate viewer that many other movies of its kind do not, are lead characters you can actually empathize with and grow to care about. "Walter" and "Kitty" are far more likable and worth rooting for than- I don't know, let's say- Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas in the English Patient (see? I don't even remember their characters' names.) The movie's tagline- "Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people" succinctly points to the heart of this film, and what makes it work so well; the journey of a couple who married for the wrong reasons towards true intimacy with each other.

On one level, the plot is so simple and straightforward that a one line summary gives the whole story away, and for that reason, I will refrain from providing that information as much as possible. It is enough to know that it is the story of The Fanes- Walter, the shy, bookish bacteriologist, and Kitty, the shallow, haughty young woman he becomes infatuated in and persuades to marry him. Walter takes Kitty to Shanghai, where he works in a government lab. Circumstances lead Walter to re-locate them to a more remote area of China in the throes of a cholera epidemic. It is in this setting that the parallel stories unfold; the story of a doctor and his wife living in the house of a dead missionary's family as the doctor tries to get control of the conditions responsible for the epidemic, and the story of the couple's journey towards re-discovering each other.

The impressive skill that Ms. Watts and Mr. Norton bring to their work truly makes you believe that that the first challenge- combating cholera amid colonial unrest and nationalist hostilities is easier than the task of repairing a damaged marriage, and with each uneasy glance and every unsaid word, you feel what these two people feel. And that is the beauty of The Painted Veil. Fans of Ms. Watts and Mr. Norton will have reason to rejoice- this is a performance unlike any I have ever seen Ms. Watts give. There is nothing of what was becoming her trademark "emotionally fragile woman in shambles" persona on display here. And what of Edward Norton? Well, after his turn in The Illusionist earlier in the year and now "Walter Fane," all I can say is, move over, Ralph Fiennes- there's a new sexy "repressed, stiff-upper-lipped, sensually simmering under the surface" leading man in town.

The Painted Veil is an intelligently adapted, well-directed film with two charismatic, award-worthy lead performances and a strong supporting cast, including Liev Schreiber, Diana Rigg, and most notably Toby Jones as the Fanes' neighbor. It is also wonderfully entertaining, and a good introduction to the period piece/historical epic genre some viewers have been avoiding due to fear of suffocation.


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