Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33

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Critic Reviews

  1. The year's best romantic drama.
  2. 90
    Curran, his actors and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner have made an old-fashioned melodramatic epic that, as steeped as it is in the language and tradition of old movies, is never less than thrummingly alive.
  3. Acted with such venomous restraint that it hurts to watch.
  4. Reviewed by: Ethan Alter
    If The Painted Veil ultimately lacks some of the novelty and ambition of the year's best pictures, it still ranks as one of 2006's quiet gems.
  5. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The Painted Veil is a welcome addition to the slate of holiday movies, particularly for those drawn to intriguing tales of multi-dimensional characters in exotic settings.
  6. The Painted Veil is rich with history and heartbreak. It's stirring stuff.
  7. 83
    No one has caught the pride, remorse and pain of an unloved and possibly unlovable husband better than Edward Norton in The Painted Veil.
  8. The always surprising Watts creates a woman at once contemporary and retro. And Norton, as a producer as well as star, concedes enough space for Schreiber and the effortlessly fascinating Jones to earn their own spotlights.
  9. 75
    The Painted Veil has the power and intimacy of a timeless love story. By all means, let it sweep you away.
  10. 75
    A lot takes place during The Painted Veil's two-hour running length, but most of what happens occurs within the hearts and minds of the leads.
  11. 75
    John Curran's pretty melodrama rubs off a few of the barbed edges from W. Somerset Maugham's 1925 novel about love and infidelity in a time of cholera, but no matter: the centerpiece is Naomi Watts' outstanding portrayal of an adulteress redeemed.
  12. The Painted Veil may begin too slowly, but it also ends too soon.
  13. The Chinese locations ache with beauty. And when Watts and Norton focus, intently, on Maugham's often dazzlingly vindictive characters, The Painted Veil really does feel like a story worth filming a third time.
  14. It's by far the most faithful of the three versions, and beyond this integrity it also offers an ensemble of graceful performances and an epic evocation of 1920s China -- though, like its predecessors, it's far from a perfect crystallization of the novel.
  15. 75
    Norton isn't the first guy who comes to mind when you think ''period piece,'' but he's starred in two such films this year (in addition to The Painted Veil, he stars in "The Illusionist"), and he is terrific in both.
  16. The movie has a lush mysteriousness that represents a bygone, almost antique style of romanticism. It bears almost no resemblance to the current crop of mostly rat-a-tat movies. To view it is to enter a time warp, and there is some pleasure in stepping back into the languor.
  17. The film is unusual in that it is a co-production with the Chinese. Whatever difficulties this imposed on the Western filmmakers, the reward is a period film that feel authentic to its time and place.
  18. 70
    Bolstered by a strong ensemble-- "Infamous's" Toby Jones as a deputy commissioner gone native, and a wonderfully wrinkled Diana Rigg as a Mother Superior, speaking up for disillusioned decency--and by the ecstatic cinematography of Stuart Dryburgh, The Painted Veil lifts Maugham's story clear of its prissy, attenuated spirituality, and into genuine passion.
  19. Whether through craft or constitution, Mr. Norton invests Walter with a petty cruelty that makes his character’s emotional thaw and Kitty’s predicament all the more poignant.
  20. This handsome period drama is a big step up for director John Curran (We Don't Live Here Anymore), who shot in China with predominantly Chinese crews. Norton and Schreiber seem too American to be English colonials, but Watts navigates a challenging transformation (in a role first played by Greta Garbo in 1934.
  21. The movie makes for a good old-fashioned wide-screen wallow. Norton isn’t remotely credible, but Toby Jones is dandy as a sleazeball with a core of decency, and Watts is so open, so soulfully petulant, so transcendentally pretty, that even Maugham might reconsider the pleasures of the flesh.
  22. 67
    While the film remains intelligent and transporting, a gorgeous travelogue into another time and place, it nonetheless feels like it's going through the motions, applying period gloss to a story that needs to be more tactile.
  23. 67
    Despite the rich, atmospheric textures, Norton's artificiality, Watts' unlikability, and a plot comprised of one melodramatic wrinkle after another all contrive to frustrate our empathy.
  24. 63
    Despite a fierce lead performance by Naomi Watts, The Painted Veil is a quaintly bloodless, picture-postcard adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's 1925 China-set novel - more Merchant Ivory than David Lean.
  25. The whole affair seems curiously bloodless and often more torpid than torrid.
  26. 63
    Curran is a talented director, especially where his actors are concerned. His previous movie, "We Don't Live Here Anymore," an adaptation of two Andre Dubus stories, was another literary adultery drama featuring Watts. The Painted Veil doesn't achieve the fire that characterized that film.
  27. The result is a beautiful painting come to stately, intermittent life.
  28. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Intelligent scripting, solid thesping and eye-catching location shooting aren't enough to make a compelling modern film of The Painted Veil.
  29. The Painted Veil has all the elements in place to be a great epic, but it fails to connect, to paraphrase Maugham's contemporary E.M. Forster, the prose with the passion. It's impeccable, but leaves you cold.
  30. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Handsomely crafted, with meticulous performances, yet it plays out drily and in monotone.
  31. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Terrific actors give glum performances.
  32. The result is a movie that feels weirdly disconnected from reality.
  33. 50
    Overall, Norton's effect and Watts' able portrayal are not enough to move the misogyny of the narrative.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 115 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 43 out of 50
  2. Negative: 3 out of 50
  1. wendys
    May 2, 2009
    Incredible movie. One of the best I've seen. Beautiful imagery and moving stoy. I loved this one.
  2. Kathyl
    Mar 21, 2009
    I thought this movie was very, very good. The relationship between the two characters was believable and moving. Their passions and emotions I thought this movie was very, very good. The relationship between the two characters was believable and moving. Their passions and emotions were real. The acting was superb and the cinematography was excellent. I can't understand why this movie did not do better--it is a gem. Full Review »
  3. SusanS.
    Dec 16, 2008
    Captivating, a well acted period piece that was engaging enough to require further reading and research after the movie credits ran. Captivating, a well acted period piece that was engaging enough to require further reading and research after the movie credits ran. Completely engrossing...the characters were multi-dimensional and well layered. The depths of each character kept me interested in their demons and wanting to know more. Wonderful film. Full Review »