Genre Grandeur – The Painted Veil (2006) – Rhyme and Reason

For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Revenge Movies, here’s a review of The Painted Veil (2006) by SG of Rhyme and Reason

Thanks again to Gavin of Mini Media Reviews for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Robb of Red Bezzle and it is Remade Movies.

Love or hate, compare and contrast, and dare to say they’re better. It could be a relocated remake a la The Magnificent Seven, an Animation to Live Action remake similar to The Jungle Book or straight forward reimagining such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of September by sending them to

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Robb!

Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:


The Painted Veil (2006)

Blinded by bitterness,

Swallowed by spite,

Ruined by rancor,

I thought revenge right.

I scorned the mere sight of you,

Hate at its height,

And savored your sorrow

With twisted delight.



But now, as I watch you

And share in your fate,

I see less the scars

That harbored my hate.

I view now the victim

My wounds helped create,

And, pleading for pardon,

I find I’m too late.




MPAA rating: PG-13



I’ve been putting off reviewing The Painted Veil for a while now, despite my VC’s admiration for it. I’m not typically a fan of “revenge movies,” and my scrambling to find one I liked for this Genre Grandeur led me to reconsider this understated epic in the light of that aspect. Based on a 1925 W. Somerset Maugham novel, The Painted Veil is a meticulously crafted period piece that feels like a classic story, if that makes sense. By that, I mean it’s one of those sweeping tales of love, affairs, disease, grief, and yes, revenge, on which I can easily see high school students being forced to write a book report. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been eager to tackle it, but it does have that “great story” vibe to it, thanks also to two nuanced performances from Naomi Watts and Edward Norton.


Watts plays a London socialite named Kitty, who agrees to marry Norton’s shy bacteriologist Walter Fane for the terrible reason of getting away from her mother. With such a shallow foundation, their marriage seems doomed from the start, and after their move to British-held Shanghai, it doesn’t take long for Kitty to look elsewhere for companionship, finding it in a married consul named Charles Townsend (Liev Schreiber). When Walter discovers the affair, he decides to punish Kitty by accepting a rural post in the cholera-plagued Chinese countryside and forcing her to accompany him. In this foreign land, surrounded by disease, both Kitty and Walter come to understand each other better and face the consequences of their rash resentment.


The Painted Veil’s production values brought to mind another illustrious romantic drama of Europeans in a foreign land, namely Out of Africa. The cinematography is lustrous and vast in showing the remoteness of the Chinese landscape, and the relationship between the colonizers and native people also seemed similar to Out of Africa, strained at times but with growing fondness on both sides as trust was won, like when Walter prescribes solutions to the cholera epidemic. Alexandre Desplat’s delicate, Golden Globe-winning score only adds to the film’s classical mystique, not as memorable as Out of Africa’s but providing a subtle, Chinese-tinged harmony to the story’s themes.

To be honest, I was left a bit cold by the slow pacing and muted characterization, but I could still admire the first-class work of Watts and Norton, whose relationship is made unique by the fact that it only develops once they hate each other. Kitty clearly thinks of her husband as weak and petty, and circumstances leave her bereft of any dependable man, aside from her silent Chinese bodyguard. Likewise, Walter’s discovery of his wife’s infidelity makes him bitter and cold where he had once been merely reserved, and he’s vengeful to the point that he doesn’t care what may happen to her in the cholera-stricken area to which they move. In this atmosphere of marital hatred, it’s how they respond to the surrounding crisis that opens their eyes to the positives they hadn’t wanted to search for in each other. Where once selfishness had ruled their intentions, their interactions with others allow Walter to see a caring side of Kitty and help Kitty recognize the good man she had spurned, realizations that may be too late.


The Painted Veil certainly isn’t what most would consider a revenge movie, but it depicts how love can conquer vengeance, even as it deals with the heartache that results. It’s an admirable film in that way, and I liked how gentle kindness and virtue were revealed as more attractive traits in Walter than the merely physical attraction Kitty found in Charles. Sorry if this is sounding like a high school book report, but that’s what you get from a period piece based on a lesser-known classic novel. It’s not exactly riveting drama or something I’d watch for fun, but The Painted Veil hides uncommon romantic themes worth tapping.


Best line: (Walter) “I suppose I’m not used to speaking unless I’ve something to say.”   (Kitty) “If people only spoke when they had something to say, the human race would soon lose the power of speech.”



Rank: List Runner-Up



© 2017 S.G. Liput

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2 thoughts on “Genre Grandeur – The Painted Veil (2006) – Rhyme and Reason

  1. Pingback: Genre Grandeur August Finale- Hell or High Water (2016) – Mini Media Reviews |

  2. Reblogged this on Rhyme and Reason and commented:
    Here’s my review of The Painted Veil for MovieRob’s August Genre Grandeur of revenge movies. This stately period piece may not be your typical revenge story, but it’s in there, along with some unique romantic themes.


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