The film is an adaptation of the 1925 novel (which I somehow missed in all my British lit courses in college and graduate school) by W. Somerset Maugham. The plot (according to Amazon) is similar to the one listed for the film: a “shallow, poorly educated Kitty marries the passionate and intellectual Walter Fane and has an affair with a career politician, Charles Townsend, assistant colonial secretary of Hong Kong. When Walter discovers the relationship, he compels Kitty to accompany him to a cholera-infested region of mainland China.” However, as Kitty cares for the sick and dying and works beside her husband, a cloister of nuns and an existential alcoholic, Kitty grows in respect and affection for her husband and begins to undergo a transformation. The film is the second made from the novel (a 1934 version starred Greta Garbo), and seems to be following along the same plot lines. The novel is a classic, and there's lots of info on the 'net. For one particularly insightful analysis, see here.
Transformation from a self-centered life to one that learns to love others is a theme that resonates throughout Scripture. While not a parallel, this story seems an echo of that, and I for one will be interested to see how it plays out.
The film, originally scheduled for release this fall, currently has a release date set for early 2007. Several other Maugham novels have been made into films, including Being Julia (which is also about transformation of sorts) and Razor’s Edge (which I haven’t seen).