This movie is a class act: a historical drama filled with beautiful images, well-drawn characters and fine acting. Based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, it has a rather old-fashioned sensibility, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.
Naomi Watts plays Kitty, a London society girl in the 1920s, who marries a taciturn, undemonstrative doctor (Edward Norton). She doesn’t love him, but he wants to marry her and she is under pressure from her family to marry someone. (Apparently the First World War had killed off most of the eligible bachelors.)
He takes her to Shanghai, where he manages a medical laboratory. She doesn’t like it there and ends up having an affair with a smooth-talking diplomat. When her husband finds out he is furious, and forces her to accompany him to a remote town that is suffering from a massive cholera epidemic.
This is the beginning of a story of self-discovery and personal growth, set against a backdrop of tragedy, suffering and violent social upheaval. This is a thoughtful story for adults, and well worth seeing.