Box art for The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil

A love story set in the 1920s of a young English couple, Walter and Kitty, who get married for the wrong reasons and relocate to Shanghai, where she falls in love with someone else.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 15
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Well-acted period drama is lush and haunting.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this drama based on a 1925 novel isn't for most kids, despite its PG-13 rating. It's a serious, often painful contemplation of marriage under duress, featuring angry arguments as well as images of suffering cholera patients. Sexual intimacy includes one early, awkward scene in which a young bride invites her husband to her bed (he's embarrassed) and a couple of adulterous situations (a couple in bed, hiding from the jilted husband), as well as a couple of drunken scenes (in one, a white British man admires his much younger Chinese girlfriend; in another, a married couple has sex, with brief shots of naked bottoms and thighs). Characters drink, and couple of supporting players smoke cigarettes.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about how Walter and Kitty end up appreciating each other's strengths and forgiving each other's failings. How do their circumstances -- surrounded by acute suffering -- encourage them to see past themselves and, as a result, see themselves more clearly? What are the movie's themes? Which characters are redeemed, and how? How does it stress the importance of communication (and show the consequences of a lack of communication)? What's lacking in Kitty and Walter's marriage? What makes a marriage good or bad?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 26
    see all The Painted Veil reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: Its strength lies in its patience -- and its slow, melting sorrow that hints at atonement.

- Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle, Friday, December 29, 2006


- Bob Mondello,, Saturday, October 18, 2008


- Coco Forsythe, Future Movies UK, Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Audience Reviews

4 stars

Definitely a well thought out plot with great actors and incredible cinematography. The use of widescreen is flawless. Where this movie falls short is the political standpoint and emotional draw, ultimately you don't care as much as they want you to. That makes it sappy at times, but isn't that bad in an overall sense. Obviously you're seeing it for Edward Norton or Naomi Watts, who both do a great job.

- ythelastman89, Tuesday, September 21, 2010

3 stars

"We humans are more complex than your silly little microbes. We're unpredictable. We make mistakes and we disappoint." Set primarily in China during a cholera outbreak in 1925, The Painted Veil is about a bacteriologist that intentionally takes his young wife to a cholera-stricken village in order to punish her for her infidelity. The couple seems unsuited for each other from the very beginning, but as the stress of the crisis that they're involved in reveals different parts of their personalities to one another, they may find a way to make something less of a disaster of their marriage. Beyond the obvious relationship aspect of The Painted Veil, it also gives a pretty startling look at how disease was treated at that time, as well as what the British footprint was like in China. I found those parts of the story to really be more interesting than the stuff between Watts and Norton. Other than their dodgy British accents, I though they were fine in their roles. It just would have been nice if events didn't play out exactly as almost anyone could have guessed after the first ten minutes. How much you enjoy this period movie will depend directly on how much interest you can put into its fairly typical plot. I thought it was okay; no better and no worse.

- lewiskendell, Tuesday, September 14, 2010

3 stars

Set in the 1920s an English couple marry hastily. The wife has an affair and to punish her, her husband takes them to Shanghai where there is a deadly epidemic. Good cast. Unexpected ending. Beautiful scenery.

- thmtsang, Friday, June 18, 2010