Hunter’s review published on Letterboxd:
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.
That last bit there, the part about loving the people around you, is the hardest part. Commitment to ideas and to what is perfect, that's one thing. Commitment to broken people, to people who hate you, and to the ones who are painfully furthest away, that is another matter entirely. Love cannot be imposed or expected, but chosen against all the odds. There is a sadly perceptive irony when the nurse Anna is said to have had it easy while caring for the dying Agnes these past twelve years, because she has really had the greatest task, yet certainly the most rewarding.
Consider Karin. She has misunderstood the idea of loving others as self in a crucial way, simply because she will not love herself. She must believe herself unlovable, even though this couldn't be farther from the truth. She is cold and distant, trying to keep even her husband at a place where he cannot touch her. She has pushed away her sister, Maria, to the point that she cannot even hear Maria calling out for her affection anymore at all.
Maria, in turn, has misunderstood the idea of loving others as self in an opposite yet equally tragic way. She has tied her love of self to the way others love her, and when her dear sister Karin refuses to express any attachment whatsoever, she slowly loses herself. Indifference can be as powerful a vice as hatred, perhaps even more so when you consider that the passions of hatred can be reversed, whereas indifference is the hardest to change. The throes of time and emotional disconnect have established themselves in Maria's psyche to a point near irreversible, and when she shares with a Karin a time of brief reconciliation, it sadly is fated to sour. Really, what more could they expect?
Anna, the nurse whose job it is only to care for Agnes' dying body, understands the like importance of soothing her soul. It is fitting that she should receive no real material recompense for her long years of dedication and, yes, love, but this is nothing to regret. She does not need it.
I've received the most wonderful gift anyone can receive in this life. A gift that is called many things: togetherness, companionship, relatedness, affection... I think this is what is called grace
Through the cries and whispers of three sisters and their unique relation to elusive love, Ingmar Bergman has illustrated that the places we expect we ought to receive support may not come through as we have always been told, but that there will always be someone, at some point, to offer us that crutch we need. As Bergman noted in another masterpiece of his, Winter Light, there is no point in reaching for the divine if we cannot, in fact, touch those who are with and around us here and now. Cries and Whispers examines the relationships that ought to be nearest, and learns that love and joy can be achieved through community and not without it, through the purest sense of family -- that is, togetherness.