The NYT calls it a "Poignant Romance". Emmanuel Levy has an article about the film and its Oscar nominations. Leonard Maltin says, "Boyer’s character is a manipulator and a heel, yet still compelling because of the actor’s charisma."
DVD Beaver says,
A moving and thoughtful film with a wonderful script (co-written by Billy Wilder), Hold back the Dawn benefits from evocative performances by Boyer and de Havilland, and an over-arching sense of romantic melancholy. An enduring classic of its era, Leisen's film was nominated for no-less than six Academy AwardsRotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus rating of 100%.