Ben Sachs’s review published on Letterboxd:
I hadn't read Joyce's "The Dead" in 15 or 20 years, but it speaks to the vividness of this adaptation that I experienced deja vu with regards to most of the details. You can practically smell the home where the story takes place, touch the furniture, and taste the Christmas pudding. Of course, this doesn't portray the hero's inner life with the same complexity, save for during the final scenes when the character recites Joyce's narration directly. As such, I thought the sad epiphany that concludes the story seemed somewhat to have come out of left field.
Did John Huston ever make another movie this tender? The storytelling achieves such a delicateness, the way Huston lingers over small moments and takes childlike curiosity in the characters' mannerisms. When the camera moves, it seems to be walking on tiptoe.
This dainty quality can be read a couple ways. It could be Huston treading carefully before the grand subject of death, or it could be his way of making everything seem fragile from the viewpoint of death. In any case, the film preserves Joyce's calm yet interrogatory stance toward the subject in its effective final scenes. Would you rather live a comfortable and unremarkable life or a tortured and extraordinary one? Does it even make a difference in the end? Also, what does it mean to live in the presence of the dead?