Focus on Film – The Painted Veil

Unashamedly inspired by The Times’ current article in which, in the light of the soon-to-be released One Day, writers choose their favourite romantic film, I felt it apt to do likewise.

As easily seduced and swayed by grandiose declarations of love or tormented, tragic relations (Wuthering Heights remains, since the age of 12, my favourite novel), The Painted Veil (2006) is, for me, my favourite romantic film, largely through its lack of epic, sweeping statements.

Set against the backdrop of an outbreak of cholera, the adulterous Kitty Fane (Naomi Watts) is compelled to travel with her bacteriologist husband Walter Fane (Edward Norton), after her illicit lover will not divorce his wife. The spoilt Kitty, neglecting to make any real attempt to get to know her husband, finds him dull and unexciting, admitting to Walter that she has never loved him and his knowledge of this means he is as much to blame for their unhappy state of affairs as she is.

Where the film really excels is in its gentle depiction of a pair, already familiar with one another, finally trying to understand one another: Kitty discovers a side of Walter hitherto unseen.

What makes this film so wonderfully affecting is the perfect subtlety of the cast and the unassuming nature of the narrative: Norton and Watts are both excellent as the Fanes, slowly rediscovering each other – far more heartbreaking than any empty over-the-top declarations.

 

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