Rachel, Rachel is a movie about seeing life passing someone by. Rachel is an introverted schoolteacher wasting away in middle-aged spinsterhood with her semi-ill mother. Living is a chore and it takes all of her strength to begin a new day. She puts on a façade of even temperament as not to provoke any suspicion of depression. This fuels her daydreams that depict what she really wants to happen during difficult situations that arise. As summer vacation releases her from her school duties, her life becomes an open book for new experiences she’s reluctant to invest in. Things take an unexpected turn when she runs into an old acquaintance named Nick and reluctantly agrees to start seeing him. After a quick seduction, she is coerced into intimacy. This new territory becomes a vibrant change she needed and Rachel begins to rely on his affection that compels her to live. She desperately clings to his brass temperament and bold nature despite the fact that he doesn’t reciprocate the love she feels so quickly for him. She pushes Nick away with her exaggerated support and is left with the emptiness unrequited love brings. It soon becomes clear that she might be pregnant. This revelation is overwhelming in the beginning; especially with the guilt her mother showers her with when she finds out. After a while, the idea grows on her and she accepts the positive force this baby would bring into her life. Rachel finds herself growing in happiness with the idea of being a mother, only to find her dreams are dashed with the discovery that it was a false pregnancy all along. This final blow to her pride gives her enough courage to take the first step of her own in her life. She decides to move out of this town and leave her memories behind as she begins a new chapter on her own terms.
This heartbreaking movie envelops you with the easy world Rachel begins in and the struggling one she actually has to live. You are forced to accept the stabile nature and then struck with the surprising revelations her life brings. There are heavy subjects such as abortion buried deep within the film that have you questioning the correct way to handle difficult forms of the situation. All the while you are rooting for Joanne Woodward’s character to rise above her surroundings and take back the life she’s been forced into. Joanne’s performance is marvelous through her husband Paul Newman’s direction. The two create a vivid world that is heart breaking and somewhat heartwarming with the complications dream resistance brings. The movie truly reminds you that you should never be afraid to live because you’re only given one chance at life.