Rachel is a 35 year old school teacher who has no man in her life and lives with her mother. When a man from the big city returns and asks her out, she begins to have to make decisions about her life and where she wants it to go.
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Franklin J. Schaffner
Thirty-five year old spinster and virgin Rachel Cameron is a sad, lonely woman. She lives in the small town of Japonica, Connecticut where she grew up. She teaches second grade at Japonica Elementary School and lives with her highly demanding widowed mother (her funeral director father passed away fourteen years ago) in the same apartment above a funeral home where she grew up, despite the home now not owned by them. Rachel often uses her mother as an excuse not to do things. Rachel represses her emotions, and is prone to daydreaming to envision alternate paths for herself in certain situations if she only had the nerve to do those things. Even when Nick Kazlik, a childhood acquaintance who has returned to Japonica for a summer visit with his family, makes it clear that he wants to have fun with her while he's in town, she can't act on his request out of fear of the unknown. But after a couple of incidents with her only real friend Calla Mackie, who is a fellow teacher at the school, ... Written by
This is only the third time I've seen this film (2006), having first seen it when it came out in 1968 and again in 1975. At each of those times the movie reflected stages of transition in my own life, and that is what makes it so riveting, scarily so, even today almost 40 years after I first saw it.
This movie, like Midnight Cowboy and others, effectively demonstrates how small-town repression and childhood experiences invariably seep into our adult lives and influence them in ways not always recognizable or to our benefit. Here is a repressed girl in a repressive small town (often New England is a symbol of suffocating, inbred, isolated, deep-level collective cultural phantoms.) doing her best to essentially stay that way, despite the well-intentioned but misdirected efforts of Calla (did Estelle Parsons play the cantankerous sister in "I Never Sang for my Father"?). That church scene would make me feel downright creepy in I were conned into attending it. The flashbacks to childhood, especially the dying boy and her own experience in the basket in the mortuary prep room, are chillingly effective in conveying the grip her youth's experiences still have on her.
As for the picture the man shows Woodward, I thought it was his dead twin brother, or it could have been his son. But the phone call she later made indicated he had no family, so it's anyone's guess as who's picture it is. I still think it's the brother. And that may bring Rachel dangerously close to the hold that her childhood could still have on her.
Finally, Rachel's decision to go to Oregon (a symbol of liberation from past miasmas, a "coming into one's own light a la the free-standing Kouros, a Jungian "individuation") makes this film very satisfying to watch. We're still left wondering--how much of her baggage does she take with her? But I left thinking that she was free enough to decide that consciously and independently.
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