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The Painted Veil (2006)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 19 January 2007 (USA)
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A British medical doctor fights a cholera epidemic in a small Chinese village, while being trapped at home in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful wife.



(screenplay), (novel)
3,106 ( 197)
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 8 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Catherine An ...
Bin Li ...
Bin Wu ...
Student 1
Alan David ...
Marie-Laure Descoureaux ...
Mary (scenes deleted)
Lorraine Laurence ...
Gwing-Gai Lee ...
Angry Chinese Man (as Johnny Lee)
Li Feng ...
Gesang Meiduo ...
Yin Qing ...
Student 2
Ian Renwick ...
Geoffrey Denison (as Ian Rennick)


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? Written by Cinema_Fan

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Forgiveness comes at a price See more »


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some mature sexual situations, partial nudity, disturbing images and brief drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:


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Release Date:

19 January 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Al otro lado del mundo  »

Box Office


$19,400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$71,814 (USA) (22 December 2006)


$8,047,690 (USA) (20 April 2007)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was originally being developed by Yari's Stratus Film. When Stratus executive, Mark Gill, left for Warner Independent, he brought this project with him. See more »


In the scene where Walter is telling Kitty he wants to divorce her, Kitty's hair changes between shots, moving from over her left cheek to further back and then forward again repeatedly. See more »


Kitty Fane: It's raining cats and dogs.
Kitty Fane: I said it's raining cats and dogs.
Walter Fane: Yes, I heard you.
Kitty Fane: You might have answered.
Walter Fane: I suppose I'm not used to speaking unless I've something to say.
Kitty Fane: If people only spoke when they had something to say, the human race would soon lose the power of speech.
See more »


Referenced in At the Movies: Venice Film Festival 2013 (2013) See more »


A La Claire Fontaine
Traditional French song
Performed by The Choir of the Beijing Takahashi Culture and Art Centre
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Exquisitely Layered, Haunting, and Clever Period Romance
14 January 2007 | by (New Jersey, USA) – See all my reviews

John Curran's nearly pitch perfect film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's "The Painted Veil" begins slowly and patiently, with leisurely flashbacks that elliptically bring us to a singularly absurd predicament: circa 1925, a British doctor (Edward Norton in his second romantic lead following "The Illusionist") has brought his lovely young wife (an entrancing Naomi Watts) into the middle of a Chinese cholera epidemic purely out of spite. It's a wickedly clever little set-up that becomes increasingly more complex and absorbing.

The note-perfect and delicately layered performances of Watts and Norton, two thespians typically acclaimed for their edgy and independent work and playing against type, are anchored with the literary genius of Maugham and Curran's keen eye and steady hand behind the camera. It's all perfectly accentuated by the brilliantly subversive music score by Alexandre Desplat (doing his best work since "Birth"). These cleverly designed elements coalesce deliciously into a fully fleshed-out whole, and allow "The Painted Veil" to grow in your mind organically and slowly slip under your skin like an infectious disease.

Ron Nyswaner does a great job of translating Maugham's writing to the screen. Virtually nothing is lost. That keen British wit, the dramatic sense of irony, and the sincere exploration of many heady themes including loveless marriages, adultery, imperialism, charity, religion, and redemption are all captured beautifully by director Curran and screenwriter Nyswaner. Watts and Norton are given plenty to chew on, not only great lines, but great scenes full of lush scenery, and beautiful and textured visual details that serve as perfect backdrops for their complex and unpredictable relationship.

Back in the heyday of Merchant-Ivory, it seemed like this type of literary minded period-piece was a dime a dozen. There hasn't been a hugely successful film of this type since 1996's "The English Patient." We haven't seen a worthwhile film in this genre since Neil Jordon's underrated "The End of the Affair" in 1999, which not coincidentally was an adaptation of one of the great novels from Maugham's fellow Brit and contemporary, Graham Greene, and addressed many of the same themes.

What "The Painted Veil" lacks in epic sweep it makes up for in scores with its nuanced performances and subversive outlook on romance and true love. Its finely landscaped images of China are transfixing, but it's the look on Norton's face when he realizes the woman his wife has become, and the glimmer of a tear forming in Watts' eye when she realizes what she's done that will haunt you.

125 of 145 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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