Results are reported on a combined experimental and numerical investigation of a free surface flow at small Reynolds numbers. The flow is driven by the rotation of the inner of two horizontal concentric cylinders, with an inner to outer radius ratio of 0.43. The outer cylinder is stationary. The annular gap is partially filled, from 0.5 to 0.95 full, with a viscous liquid leaving a free surface. When the fraction of the annular volume filled by liquid is 0.5, a thin liquid film covers the rotating inner cylinder and reenters the liquid pool. For relatively low rotation speeds, the evolution of the film thickness is consistent with the theory for a plate being withdrawn from an infinite liquid pool. The overall liquid flow pattern at this condition consists of two counter-rotating cells: one is around the inner cylinder and the other with weaker circulation rate is in the bottom part of the annulus and nearly symmetric about the vertical axis. With increasing rotation rate, the free surface becomes more deformed, and the dynamics of the stagnation line and the cusp line dividing the cells are tracked as quantitative measures of the interface shape. In addition, the recirculating flow cells lose symmetry and the cusp deforms the free surface severely. A comparison of numerically computed flow which describes the interface by a phase-field method confirms the dynamics of the two cells and the interface deformation. For filling fraction 0.75, the liquid level is slightly above the inner cylinder and a significant decrease in size of the bottom cell with increasing rotation rate is found. For filling fractions approaching unity, the liquid flow consists of one single cell and the surface deformation remains small.