The directorial technique is high. Good photography. Good blocking of the characters. Good pacing. Ultra-tight closeups are a big negative, detracting from the performances and the narrative. The narrative? That world class concert pianists who happen to be female have no business giving birth. A limited and unlimited thesis, but there it is. When mom is abroad actively pursuing her career, she is unforgiveably neglectful. And successful career women: do not dare to stray into an adulterous affair! It will destroy your children and leave them hating you. But then again, if you suffer a career-ending physical disability and come back home to stay, you will only inflict further suffering on your family. For some unexplained reason, a successful career woman's approach to child rearing will necessarily be a monochromatic Mommie Dearest reign of terror. Your children will return the favor, again, with immutable hatred. The possibility that the inescapable fate of some unusually talented people is to maximize the amount of beauty (or other good things) in the world at large, and that the price of that fate may result in poor parenting skills, is no counterbalance to the imagined (and obsessively picked at) wounds of the children.
Time Out saysNow about these women... Mother (concert pianist Bergman) and daughter (parson's wife Ullmann) come face to face after seven years to touch, cry and whisper - and to confront and confess - in an atmosphere pregnant with death and disease, shame and silence. Routine obsessions, routine hysteria; maybe even a routine masterpiece. Of course Bergman's actresses suffer superbly in microscopic close-up, but the nagging doubt persists as to whether this is incisive psychodrama or just those old nordic blues again.