review for The Whisperers on AllMovie

The Whisperers (1967)
by Craig Butler review

The Whisperers is shamelessly manipulative, but no less effective for that. Bryan Forbes adaptation of Robert Nicolson's novel plays with the audience's emotions to the point that it becomes increasingly painful, making this uncompromising film too difficult for many viewers. Those who stick with it will be rewarded, however, not because the movie is actually conveying a deep or new message but because it provides the incomparable Dame Edith Evans with one of the few onscreen roles that demonstrated her amazing range and ability. Too often this treasure of an actress was given screen roles that played up her inclination toward haughtiness and/or dottiness. While she always imbued those roles with more than was required, they rarely taxed her. Whisperers calls upon her innermost resources, demanding a tour de force, and Evans rises to the challenge brilliantly and chillingly. Onscreen for almost the entire film, Evans is riveting throughout, whether stuffing tinned slices of bread into her mouth or heartbreakingly asking "Are you there?" of her voices after her husband has once again left her to her pathetic existence. Evans elicits an enormous amount of pity for the character, yet makes it clear that much of her problems are of her own doing. Her performance is haunting and mesmerizing, one of the finest of its decade. The film as a whole is merely good, not great, but Evans' work is a gem of impossible purity.