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A Delicate Balance (1973)

PG | | Drama | April 1976 (UK)
A well-to-do Connecticut family is upended when the grown daughter's godparents, seized by a nameless terror, decide to come live with them.


Tony Richardson


Edward Albee (play), Edward Albee (adapted for the screen by) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Katharine Hepburn ... Agnes
Paul Scofield ... Tobias
Lee Remick ... Julia
Kate Reid ... Claire
Joseph Cotten ... Harry
Betsy Blair ... Edna


In Connecticut, Agnes and Tobias are an upper-class married couple whose relationship has been uneasy for many years, since at least the time their son died; but they've managed to find a certain comfortable pattern of uneasiness. Agnes's sister, Claire, lives with them and insists that her perpetual drinking is not alcoholism but willfulness. Their daughter, Julia, poised to have her fourth divorce, has come back home. Unexpectedly, her room has been taken over by Harry and Edna, best friends of Tobias and Agnes. Seized by a nameless terror that propelled them out of their own house, Harry and Edna have decided to stay. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The sister who drank too much. The daughter who divorced too much. They're all there when Tobias and Agnes have their little get-together and tear-apart.




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

April 1976 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Balansgång See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Adapted from a play by Edward Albee. The original Broadway production, starring Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, opened at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York on Sept. 12, 1966, ran for 132 performances and was nominated for the 1967 Tony Award for the Best Play. See more »


Agnes: Time! Time happens, I suppose, to people. Everything becomes... too late, finally. You know it's going on up on the hill; you can see the dust, and hear the cries, and the steel... but you wait, and time happens. When you do go, sword, shield... finally... there's nothing there... save rust, bones and the wind.
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User Reviews

Far-out Psycho-drama
13 June 2007 | by director-201See all my reviews

A film with that name simply has to deal with a marriage. Most especially if it's from the 1970s and stars Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield. This drama concerns the most fragile relationship we could imagine, a sharp edge of lost youth and icy pain tinging the whole narrative from the very beginning. It's an Edward Albee play and it won a Pulitzer, so the writing is effective, the relationship mechanisms are intricate and run deep, the characters introduced into to the realm of the sad couple are perfectly cast, and alcohol has a strong presence. I found myself fascinated by how the delivery and contents of the conversations made me cringe uncomfortably.

Let's compare it to John Cleese, but let's skip the humor

I suspectthat A Delicate Balance would not quite be recommended by today's media-happy cinema, it would simply be acknowledged as a masterpiece, albeit a depressing one. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the film:

"They say we dream to let the mind go raving mad."

"There's nothing here but rust and bones."

"Such silent sad disgusting love…"

The following dialogue snippet plays the control and submission game well:

Agnes (Hepburn): You are NOT young now, and you do NOT live at home.

Tobias (Scofield): Where do I live?

Hepburn: In the deep dark place…

So, there is quite a bit of malice and strange ticks that come from years of not speaking about what needs attention, and instead dealing with only the perceived pleasant, which eventually becomes unpleasant and slowly rots. In the end, some marriages end up this way- if you decide to rent this movie, be warned that some of the tactics of subliminal knife-throwing are dangerously poignant and we can recognize them, if not in ourselves, but in the couple next door, or that guy that we know, or the newlyweds bickering in the grocery store.

Love is attainable- be assured. There is effort to life, however, and we can only get better if we continue to strive towards enlightenment, and it starts at home and with our close ones.

This film came out in 1973, which is my favorite time of cinema, perhaps because that decade was my first, and I know that I was influenced by all types of signs of the times at the time- music, literature, cinema, news, clothing. There was a stoic way of looking psychotherapy in the eye and not being afraid of getting a little depressed or depressing, embracing the dull and dysfunctional, if you will: like the storyline of the Ice Storm, or Bergman's Cries and Whispers. (As I understand, even Bergman declined to direct the movie version of A Delicate Balance- perhaps he was in a bad marriage himself?) Hollywood of the 1970s was more about truth than the bottom line, making it an excellent time for Albee and his keen sense of the psycho-drama.

Watch it: A Delicate Balance. It will leave you dumbfounded and with a metallic taste in your mouth, as if something unwanted but ever-present entered your soul to remind you about the perils of lost youth and unspoken love.

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