Painted Veil

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Movie Review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Toby Jones, Diana Rigg

Director: John Curran

THE PAINTED VEIL tells the story of Kitty Fane (Naomi Watts) trapped in a loveless marriage to biologist husband Walter (Edward Norton.) When she has an affair, Walter takes Kitty into the cholera-ridden areas of central China in the hope of curing both the peasants and his marriage.

Based on a Somerset Maugham novel, this simple premise makes a tender and emotional film, filled with beautiful muted colour and very understated performances from the two leads. It captures the quiet timeless beauty of the Chinese landscape and the traditions of both the Chinese and British. Director John Curran treads a similar ground to his earlier film WE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, but makes great use of the period setting to pinpoint the difference in relationships now and in the 1920’s, when this film is set. The Chinese setting is a gift and the vast landscapes and claustrophobic towns perfectly capture the closeness and detachment between the leads.

Watts accent fluctuates slightly. She has much the same cold “cut-glass” performance style as her friend Nicole Kidman – but there is something less dispassionate about her performance here than many of Kidman’s. Edward Norton, as usual gives a master class of understated excellence. He gives us a worthy man, maybe not the most likeable of characters, but we learn to admire him just as Kitty does as time progresses.

After the speedy initial set up of the film, its languid pace may put some people off, but this is a beautifully shot and performed film that is well deserving of your time.

5 out of 6 stars