Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Painted Veil


Shot on location in China, in that river valley in Guangxi that looks so gorgeous it might have been computer-generated for a fantasy film. The year is 1925, a turbulent time in China (though, come to think of it, has there ever been a time in China when it was not turbulent?), and a cholera epidemic is raging in the hinterlands while various political factions and warlords are beginning to have some success in expelling the western devils who have sucked the country dry for centuries.

This is a good movie, but not remarkable. You sometimes wonder why a particular movie was made, and might suspect it was because the stars fancied a vacation in China, or a tropical island. This isn’t quite like that, but still, they couldn’t have thought there was a huge audience for this. I do want to mention Toby Jones, though. We saw him in Elizabeth I, with Helen Mirren, and were impressed. He played Robert Cecil, and was outstanding. He’s a funny-looking little gnome, doomed to character parts, I suspect—though he did star as Truman Capote in Infamous, and the only reason I haven’t seen that one is that I’m dreadfully tired of Truman Capote. I mean, how many movies have they made about the little shit? But I might suck it up and see it just for Toby Jones. In The Painted Veil, he takes a part that could have been nothing and makes it memorable, quietly, sneaking up on you with his unexpected humanity.