145 critic

The Painted Veil (2006)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 19 January 2007 (USA)
0:31 | Trailer
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.


John Curran


Ron Nyswaner (screenplay), W. Somerset Maugham (novel)
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 10 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »





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


This love story has Kitty (Naomi Watts) meeting young, intelligent, shy and somewhat dull Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton), whose forte is the study of infectious diseases, and the convenient marriage to which she finds herself committed. It is in this web of intrigue that they head for China, only after Walter discovers Kitty's infidelity with the dashing and witty diplomat Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber). 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 of these flightless lovebirds and with the hardships and tolerances more than any had ever anticipated. A visual delight amidst the pain and suffering of 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


Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people 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:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Edward Norton and Naomi Watts were both also producers of the film. See more »


In the scene where Kitty and Walter enter their house in the village where they go because of the Cholera epidemic, the first time they enter there is a floor lamp in the living room with a green glass shade. After that first scene, the lamp disappears and is never seen again. See more »


[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?
See more »


Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Edward Norton Performances (2013) See more »


Le Furet Du Bois Joli
Composed by Pierre De Berville
Arranged by Evan H. Chen (as Evan Chen)
Performed by The Choir of the Beijing Takahashi Culture and Art Centre
See more »

User Reviews

Love in the times of cholera....
20 July 2007 | by HeadleyLamarrSee all my reviews

The Painted Veil is my favorite Somerset Maugham novel so I was concerned about how much justice could be done to this hauntingly beautiful story of revenge, love and redemption. Is it possible to take a masterpiece and make a decent film out of it in Hollywood? Apparently yes! Could the movie have been better - absolutely, but does it get the job done well? I'd say yes.

Ed Norton is Walter - a bacteriologist stationed in Shangai. In Londn he mets and falls in love with the beautiful Kitty (Naomi Watts), hasty marriage and honeymoon in Venice later they are both in China. He is busy - she is bored. And what better way to relieve boredom than an extramarital affair with Charlie - the philandering consular official (Liev Schrieber)? But Walter discovers the affair and decides to volunteer to a cholera stricken province and take Kitty with him. Charlie was never serious anyway so off they go into the jaws of death. In the cholera infested back of beyond Walter and Kitty discover more about each other than they did in many months of marriage. A mutual respect grows into something else but it is a cholera infested region after all. So the tale must have a tragic ending and it does. But it leaves one with a sense of relief as the camera finally moves away from the oppressive dark tones and into light.

The movie has beautiful performances by Ed Norton and Ms. Watts. His serious, then almost sinister, then enlighetened Walter is the perfect foil to her luminous, wicked and then vulnerable Kitty. Liev Schrieber is good in the brief role as Charlie and all the supporting cast is very good indeed. The locale is stunning and the mood is brilliantly captured in the dark, the shadows and moments of light.

Are there Hollywood moments? Of course there are, mostly during the growing attraction between the lead pair there are the clichéd moments of "intoxication", his looking suddenly more attractive and youthful, her moments with the orphanage kids. But none of it is over the top. The movie is full of mood, sensuous beauty and emotion. I enjoyed the film and I think Mr. Maugham is there somewhere nodding his head in approval at a job well done.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Official Sites:

Official site


China | USA | Canada


English | Mandarin | French

Release Date:

19 January 2007 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Painted Veil See more »


Box Office


$19,400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$51,086, 24 December 2006

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

SDDS | Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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