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Franklin J. Schaffner
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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. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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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