The Painted Veil

DRAMA; 2hr 5min

STARRING: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton

Three’s a crowd: from left, Shreiber, Watts and Norton

Marriage for ill-judged motives is a mistake no matter when or where it happens. When frivolous London butterfly Kitty (Watts) marries earnest Shanghai-based bacteriologist Walter (Norton, as unflinching as a yardstick) to escape her meddlesome mother, she has no illusions about her pulse racing. Then, when Walter discovers Kitty’s affair with a playboy vice-consul (Liev Shreiber), he drags her with him to live in a remote, cholera-stricken village out of spite. The era is the 1920s, when women were essentially possessions, the story is W. Somerset Maugham’s, the director is John Curran (We Don’t Live Here Anymore) and the emotions are laceratingly fresh.


Poor, pampered Kitty, entrapped in a death zone by the man who once loved her! Her plight seems hopeless, and Watts is translucent in her anguish. Meanwhile, the landscape — captured in all its ethereal indifference by cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh — is heavenly throughout, first as a taunting counterpoint, and then, when crisis becomes a crucible for the estranged couple, as a symbol of the beauty and the peril of love.