Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish expatriate who became one of Hollywood's greatest stars, and Ingmar Bergman, one of the world's most acclaimed filmmakers and Sweden's most honored director, worked together for the first and only time in this intensely personal drama about the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter. Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman) is an acclaimed concert pianist who is visiting her daughter Eva (Liv Ullmann), the wife of a parson in a rural community, for the first time in seven years. While Charlotte and Eva struggle to be civil, there is a deep emotional gulf between them. Eva resents her mother for not caring enough for her as a child, feeling that Charlotte was more interested in her career and her other daughter, Helena (Lena Nyman), who is severely handicapped and can only communicate through inarticulate noises. Charlotte, on the other hand, is uncomfortable with the fact that Helena now lives with Eva, and she is still coming to terms with the emotional devastation of her husband's recent death. Herbstsonate, released in America as Autumn Sonata, earned Ingrid Bergman some of the most enthusiastic acclaim of her career; she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and she won the same honor from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle. It was also her last theatrical release; she would appear in only one more project, a TV movie about the life of Golda Meir, before her death in 1982.
by Mark Deming synopsis