By: Da’Mon Guy
The Painted Veil is a intriguing love story packed with two good emotional performances. The movie was adapted from a book of the same name. The movie stars Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk), Naomi Watts (Fair Game), Liev Schreiber (Salt), and Toby Jones (Frost/ Nixon).
Set in the 1920’s, A British doctor falls in love and marries a young woman who does not share the same feelings. After he catches his wife committing adultery, he volunteers to become the doctor for a small Chinese village in the middle of the Cholera epidemic.
The Painted Veil is a complex love story about two people that marry one another for two different reasons. This film showcases how people marry for many reasons other than love. The film doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the beginnings of their marriage. Conversely, it does open with a series of brief flashbacks that give us some insight into their problematic covenant. It shows the initial differences between them and the reason that this mismatched pair were married. For Walter (Norton), it was love at first sight and for Kitty (Watts), the marriage was a way to shed herself of the disappointments of her mother. There is a clear disconnect between them from the beginning. The couple are on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of personality and that is the initial undoing of their marriage in the early goings. Kitty was very vibrant, outgoing, and social whereas Walter was more brooding and reclusive, shy almost dull.
This is a story of a love that develops through maturity and adversity. Kitty is extremely selfish and immature in the beginning of the movie. In the beginning, she never truly understood the depths of Walter’s passion as she had an adulterous relationship. Walter, unable to sever himself from Kitty’s spell, cleverly devises a way to punish Kitty for her indiscretion. In doing so, he is able to penalize her and still selfishly control her.
The movie moves at a very slow pace. However, this isn’t your usual love story. Throughout the course of the film, Kitty matures and emotionally develops to the level that she can appreciate the love that Walter has for her. This is a profound character development that occurs very subtlety but only after she is forced to mature and recognize Walter for the man that he is.
The film’s great cinematography lends itself to the richness of the story and the performances of Watts and Norton. The scenes of China are a great backdrop to many of the intimate exchanges between them. Norton and Watts portray these mismatched lovers wonderfully as most of the emotional exchanges are extremely subtle. A look here, or a tear, or some other small gesture that sets the tone for the scene. Both Watts and Norton master these within the film as it hits home.
This film wasn’t what I expected. It moved somewhat slow to me but it developed into a really thought provoking story. I didn’t approve of some of the character’s choices but they made the story worthwhile. The Painted Veil is a stirring, thought provoking love story. It isn’t a movie about big emotional displays or over the top confrontations. It’s about love, maturity, and the sacrifices that people endure for love. The movie’s less than stellar Hollywood ending is a great example of that. The Painted Veil is a good display of how love is can change someone completely.