Tune in Tonight: The Painted Veil

I've always loved talking about movies and TV shows on my blog, but it wasn't until I guest posted for Book People Talk Movies (created by Lindsey from Bring My Books) that I even thought about making it a regular thing. But now I can't wait to share my absolute favorites - both old and new - with you every month!

The Stats

The Painted Veil (2006)
Rating: PG-13
Length: 125 minutes
Genre: Drama | Romance
Director: John Curran
Writer: Ron Nyswaner (Screenplay), W. Somerset Maugham (Novel)
Buy on Amazon | Buy on iTunes

The Story

Based on the classic novel by W. Somerset Maugham, "The Painted Veil" is a love story set in the 1920s that tells the story of a young English couple, Walter, a middle class doctor and Kitty, an upper-class woman, who get married for the wrong reasons and relocate to Shanghai, where she falls in love with someone else. When he uncovers her infidelity, in an act of vengeance, he accepts a job in a remote village in China ravaged by a deadly epidemic, and takes her along. Their journey brings meaning to their relationship and gives them purpose in one of the most remote and beautiful places on earth. +

The Stars

Naomi Watts as Kitty Fane
Edward Norton as Walter Fane
Liev Schreiber as Charlie Townsend

The Sneak Peek

The Sell

Back when Blockbuster still existed, I rented The Painted Veil because it looked like my kind of movie. I hadn't heard anything about it, even though it was a recent release at the time. And once I watched it, I knew I'd found a keeper. If I had to narrow down my movie collection to just five favorites, this would be one of them. 

First of all, it's a gorgeous movie. Without telling you any of the other reasons I love it, I think it's worth checking this movie out for the costumes, setting and cinematography alone. It was filmed in China - most in Guilin, Guangxi. I loved this aspect of the film because you could tell they were really on location. It didn't look like some generic place standing in for China, which I appreciated. The costumes are understated but still eye-catching - they very much capture the spirit of 1925! And the cinematography brings it all together. The score (which I talk about in the final section) also added to the beauty of the film and acted as perfect complement to what was taking place. All of it together just swept me away!

The Painted Veil depicts a marriage in crisis. Walter and Kitty Fane get married for all the wrong reasons - she to escape her family and he because he's fallen in love with an idealized version of her. And, quite honestly, they don't really make sense together. He's serious and quiet; she's vivacious and in search of fun. It appears both have made a mistake in getting married, especially when Walter learns that Kitty has been having an affair. In an act of vengeance, he accepts a job in a remote Chinese village that's being ravaged by cholera and essentially forces her to come with him. I know it doesn't sound romantic, and yet I fell in love with these two.

The movie opens with the couple traveling to Mei-tan-fu and flashes back and forth between that setting and the beginning of their story (their first meeting, Walter's proposal, her infidelity and his discovery of it). It's a decision that allows you to see the distance between them - and just what's led them to this place and this point in their marriage. The first time I watched it, I wasn't sure where the movie was headed. Would they reconcile with each other? Would they recognize how they both contributed to the problems in their relationship? Well, you'll have to watch it to find out for yourself.

The Painted Veil is based on the novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. I read the book after I watched the movie, and this is one of those rare instances where I greatly prefer the movie over the book. While the book is still an interesting read, the story ends quite differently. The movie still follows the basic story from the book, and I believe it's occasionally quoted (if I remember correctly), but there's so much more romance and hope in it. I'm so happy with the way it was adapted for the screen! 

This is a quiet, understated movie. There's not a lot of action, but there is so much emotion. You can feel Kitty's desperation to escape her family and her desire to be loved and give love. You can see Walter's hurt, his anger, and his coldness to her. There's this huge divide, but there's also longing and hope. I always get a little choked up when I watch this movie, and I know my emotional investment in it is why it's one of my favorites.

The Snippets

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Walter Fane: You used to feel contempt for me. Don't you still?
Kitty Fane: Walter! I can't believe that you, with all your cleverness, should have such little sense of proportion. We humans are more complex than your silly little microbes. We're unpredictable, we make mistakes and we disappoint.
Walter Fane: Yes. We certainly do.
Kitty Fane: I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I'm not the perfect young woman you want me to be. I'm just ordinary. I never tried to pretend that I was anything else.

The Score

This is one of my VERY favorite movie scores! It's composed and conducted by Alexandre Desplat and features "world-renowned piano virtuoso" Lang Lang. The music is so important - beautifully highlighting the emotion of every moment. It's one of the few scores I play on repeat all the time. 


  1. I haven't seen this version, but there *is* a 1934 film of the same name with Greta Garbo that's also based on the same novel. I definitely recommend that one, if you haven't seen it. It could be fun to compare!

  2. OMG!! I love this movie so much! I totally agree with you about the beauty of the movie. It's stunning!

  3. I've never seen The Painted Veil, but now I really, really want to! It sounds like the type of story that would just completely draw me in, since I love stories that center around relationships between characters. Plus, the setting and that score? Lovely. I can't wait to check it out!


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