Rachel, Rachel (1968)

The theme for 2018's first Thursday Movie Picks was movies with the name of the character in the title. One of Joel's picks was Rachel, Rachel. In spite of its Oscar Best Picture nomination, I had never heard of it before. It sounded interesting though so I check it out.

Still a virgin at 35, school teacher Rachel Cameron (Joanne Woodward) lives a sad and lonely life with her demanding mother (Kate Harrington). When Nick Kazlik (James Olson), a childhood friend of hers, returns to the small town from New York City and asks her out, she has a hard time handling emotions she has never felt before. That's when she realises it's time for her to make decisions about her life. 

As you can see (or rather read), the film has a very simple, basic story. There's not a lot going on, it's just two days of the life of this woman who realises her life is passing her by (kind of what's happening to me right now only I'm almost 24, not 35) and tries (?) to fix it. And it isn't a very engaging story, to be completely honest. 

However, the character of Rachel is so interesting, it makes up for the story. She is, yes, depressed and lonely and repressed and kind of weak, but she's also strong. She is a woman haunted by her past, which is the reason she has troubles coping with emotions but also with reality and fantasy/dream. The flashbacks work very well and they effectively deliver the impact her youth still has on her life. The beautiful interior monologues also help us understand her better.

The credits though don't go entirely to the writing. Actually, Joanne Woodward deserves most of them as she gives such delicate, simple and yet complex performance. She delivers Rachel's awakening very well and captures her anguish and her hope for the future and happiness. But there's more, she doesn't even need words to convey all of that, her face speaks for her. 

Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Definitely worth of a mention is Paul Newman's direction. Not only he gets a wonderful performance out of Joanne Woodward (his wife), but from the supporting cast as well. Estelle Parsons is excellent as Calla Mackie, another lonely teacher who has some issues as well, and James Olson is great as Nick, the cynical man from the big city who lets Rachel down. 

Also, Newman managed to tell Rachel's story with the sensitivity required, and handled the shifts between Rachel's present and her past/memories (flashbacks) very well, in a clear, not confusing way. The camera work is also quite impressive and the cinematography is effective. 


  1. I think I would probably watch this one too. I'm glad to hear the lead is so strong.

    1. She's great. The movie is worth watching for her performance alone.