In this lush period piece, circa 1925, Walter Fane Norton), a British doctor who lives and works in Shanghai, returns to London for a visit. He's invited to a party where he espies upper-crust socialite Kitty Garstin (Watts), and for Walter, it's love at first sight. While serious-minded Walter is very different from Kitty's fun-loving beaus, she agrees to marry him to get away from her social-climbing mother. Kitty finds it difficult to adjust to life in Shanghai, though. Even the other British ex-pats aren't to her liking. But then she meets Charlie Townsend, a smooth-talking diplomat, and they begin an affair. When Walter discovers the infidelity, he gives Kitty a choice: Either accompany him to a remote, cholera-infested village, or get Townsend to divorce his wife and marry her. When Kitty realizes she's merely one in a long line of flings for Charlie, she agrees to accompany her husband, although she suspects he's luring her there so she'll contract the disease and die.
At first, Walter shows only disdain towards his wife, barely acknowledging her existence. This means Kitty is left to her own devices in their bare-bones hut during the day while Walter is out battling the epidemic, as well as at night, where there is little interaction between them. Then Kitty begins helping out at the local orphanage and learns how respected her husband is. Little by little, Kitty turns her back on her former frippery and begins to aid the villagers in earnest. At the same same, Walter begins to understand that his wife is an intelligent, capable woman. They slowly begin to forgive each other and fall in love with one another.
The downs-and-ups of the Fanes' relationship is not the only element in this epic tale. Their story is set against a backdrop of political unrest in China, where Westerners are not welcome, and at one point, some locals threaten Kitty. There is also a dollop of social criticism here, aimed at the British class system.
The review of this Movie prepared by Elana Starr