Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  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. The Painted Veil is rich with history and heartbreak. It's stirring stuff.
  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. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 75
    The Painted Veil has the power and intimacy of a timeless love story. By all means, let it sweep you away.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. The Painted Veil may begin too slowly, but it also ends too soon.
  13. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  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. 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.
  19. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  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. 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.
  26. The whole affair seems curiously bloodless and often more torpid than torrid.
  27. The result is a beautiful painting come to stately, intermittent life.
  28. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Handsomely crafted, with meticulous performances, yet it plays out drily and in monotone.
  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: Todd McCarthy
    Intelligent scripting, solid thesping and eye-catching location shooting aren't enough to make a compelling modern film of The Painted Veil.
  31. Reviewed by: Matthew Sorrento
    Overall, Norton's effect and Watts' able portrayal are not enough to move the misogyny of the narrative.
  32. Terrific actors give glum performances.
  33. The result is a movie that feels weirdly disconnected from reality.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 110 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 44 out of 49
  2. Negative: 3 out of 49
  1. Jun 18, 2014
    This film certainly has a lot going for it. First off, the cinematography is gorgeous. Every shot is more beautiful than the next, thanks in large to the beautiful and picturesque scenery. The acting from leads Edward Norton and Naomi Watts is top-notch and their chemistry is very good with one another. Toby Jones also has a good supporting role here. For all of them, they got to play very well developed and multi-faceted characters, a bonus for them and a key element to what makes this one a success, as the script is very well done. In addition, the love story is well done. I am not typically overly into romantic films, but this one is definitely different as the romance feels real and not cheesy at all. All of these elements also feel realistic for the time period depicted and really makes it feel like an authentic portrayal of a man and a wife who are going through troubled times with one another. Finally, the film is very interesting, it never really failed to have my interest. Yes, it is slow and methodic, but it is a gorgeous film to watch and take in and never really heads towards "boring" for me. Overall, "The Painted Veil" is a very well done period piece that is almost melodic in its portrayal of this love story. Full Review »
  2. Mar 6, 2014
    Beautiful and tragic love story. Plot is quite simple but emotionally really complex. I also love the gloomy atmosphere and music through the film. Definitely one of my favorites. Full Review »
  3. May 28, 2013
    The Painted Veil is an excruciating lengthy bore that doesn't have a minute that is worth acknowledging. The romance between the leads is so unconvincing it becomes worthless, similar to the rest of the film. Full Review »