The Painted Veil (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Naomi Watts and Edward Norton star in a handsome, Merchant-Ivoryish adaptation of Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil (12A, 125 mins), in which a cuckolded bacteriologist takes his haughty society wife away from the comforts of 1920s colonial Shanghai to an isolated village suffering a cholera outbreak. Norton proves he can do repressed Englishmen with a cruel streak easily as well as Ralph Fiennes, Watts makes you feel for her character far more than you anticipate that she could, and there's fine support from Toby Jones and Diana Rigg. The gorgeous design and cinematography don't distract from what is an engaging and interestingly structured tragic love story. Unfortunately, the undifferentiated Chinese villagers whose story you suspect is more tragic and interesting, do.