A difficult yet rewarding film, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg suffers somewhat from an uncertainty as to how to translate the stage play to film. This is understandable, as a great deal of the impact of the original play was dependent upon unnatural conventions -- playing portions of the play as skits, creating song-and-dance routines -- that are hard to pull off on film. Without those conventions to add variety, Joe Egg tends to play a little flat (and gets too little help from Peter Medak's earnest direction). And there's no doubt that the subject matter -- a couple being torn apart by the incurable disease that has affected their child since birth -- will make Joe Egg rough going for some. That said, this very subject matter also makes Joe Egg intensely affecting and provides some absolutely unforgettable moments, chief among them Janet Suzman's beautiful and devastating monologue about the day she thought her daughter had knocked down some blocks on purpose. Suzman and Albert Finney are in top form, delivering performances that are both bleakly funny and wrenchingly moving. Joan Hickson also scores as the grandmother who prefers to play stupid, and there's fine support from Peter Bowles and Sheila Gish. A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is imperfect, and sometimes its central romance skirts with melodrama, but it's a film that the adventurous should seek out.
by Craig Butler review