Ben Oliver

Banner image for The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil

It was silly of us to look for qualities in each other that we never had.
30 January 2021

A couple (Naomi Watts, Edward Norton) in a loveless marriage travel to China to help a village in the midst of a Cholera outbreak.

While this is pretty standard romantic drama fare that feels a bit dated even for 2006, there’s lots to like.

They actually went to China to shoot the film and it shows, it looks great. It would have been much easier to film this elsewhere and pretend, but the location is a large part of what makes this film tick.

Norton and Watts are a great. He’s a stiff-as-a-board Englishman who is overly cruel to her when he discovers she is cheating on him. This makes it all the more meaningful when their relationship begins to thaw.

The Desplat soundtrack is lush, there are a couple of times where it becomes more interesting than the film itself. Perhaps that is a failure, but it’s better than being bored.

It’s all a bit white-saviour but it handles the issue better than most films of its ilk, especially those from 15 years ago.

You may have never heard of The Painted Veil but it’s a failure in marketing more than anything else. It’s an effective, well cast piece of work that in any other life would have been perfect Oscar-fodder.