The Parson's Widow got a rather mixed reception in the Danish papers. The København critic accuses the subject of being "quite thin and rather uninteresting; there is a lack of action: nothing h a p p e n s," and he experiences the film’s comedy scenes as unmotivated – after all, the programme says it’s a drama! On the other hand, he praises the "nature shots" and Hildur Carlberg’s "fine acting" (København, 27 Apr. 1921).
Berlingske Tidende, for its part, is enthusiastic about the film’s humour: " Otherwise full of amusing moments, this film evokes both tears and laughter. With applause we greet Mathilde Nielsen and Emil Helsengreen as two ancient servants…." The Politiken newspaper is also kindly disposed: "Mr. Dreyer’s direction is clever and perceptive on all points. Through it we get a series of interesting pictures of cultural history…."
The film also seems to have got a rather mixed reception in Sweden. According to The Swedish Filmography, some critics found it stuffy, drawn out and museum-like. Dagens Nyheter criticises Dreyer for not exploiting the story’s potential. "He has not been able to judge the effect of his scenes and the result is that much seems flat out in poor taste and the protagonists, especially the parson, seem disagreeable. Einar Röd […], too, here seems like pure artifice and, moreover, in no way looks Nordic in the Mephistopheles mask he has found it convenient to assume." Other critics were enthusiastic, "With real joy I here note that this Swedish film is considerably superior to anything else this season has brought by way of Swedish films. There is life in the portrayals, the people appear more real, there is stronger dramatic cohesion. Thus this film speaks to the aesthetic mind, while at the same time you sense that this is a picture of reality" (Folkets Dagblad Politiken). Hildur Carlberg’s performance as the parson’s widow is everywhere singled out as a tour de force.