The Painted Veil Reviews
Kitty (Watts) is getting older. Living in 1920's London, her parents have more to say with impunity about her suitors. Quick to pursue her, Walter Fane (Norton) pushes himself for courtship against her wishes, but the timing leaves her no choice but wedlock. Interrupted in their social life, they become a foursome with Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber) and his wife. Charlie, a virile alternative to her drab, doctor husband, tempts her into adultery. In such an arrangement, women didn't have the freedoms they do now. So when Walter is assigned to treat a cholera epidemic in Shanghai, he's privy to her affair and can blackmail her to come along or face the scorn of divorce. Since her lover is a playboy who abhors attachment anyway, she again has no choice.
Life in China at first offers nothing more than disease and disenchantment. Bored with her life and keeping in seclusion to avoid cholera, her husband spreads nothing but flinty resentment toward her unfaithful presence. Besides a stunning landscape, she discovers a convent where a wise, old mother superior charms her heart and inspires her to do at first repellant work with the orphans. Besides the dangers of disease, the locals are slow to warm up to any foreigner's presence, even one that may offer a solution to their health crisis.
More moving than its beautiful cinematography, Norton's and Watt's splendid performances work well with a captivating story of lust and love, betrayal and forgiveness, and selfishness turned to self-giving. While some viewers may find some of the old-fashioned elements of the film languorous in places, I feel the picture clocks in just right for the state of affairs. Superbly crafted, 'Painted Veil' is complete with a heart-melting beauty for the soul as well as for the eyes.