Rachel Cameron (Woodward) is a single 35-year-old schoolteacher consumed with caring for other people's children and her domineering widowed mother (Harrington), with whom she still lives. While Rachel's rich inner life seems like her only escape, still she longs for a real emotional connection. Her best friend Calla (Parsons) has reinvigorated her own life by finding Jesus, but a visit to Calla's church leads to an explosive falling-out between the two. When childhood classmate Nick (Olson) returns to town and awkwardly woos her, Rachel must decide if this is her last best chance at love.
This moving psychological drama was a true family affair: Paul Newman directed, his wife Woodward starred as the adult Rachel, and their daughter Nell Potts played Rachel as a child. Via flashbacks and fantasy sequences, we come to understand both what formed Rachel in her past and what she yearns for in her future. Set in a sheltered small town in the 1960s, "Rachel" explores its central themes of thwarted dreams and repressed sexuality with just the right balance of delicacy and frankness. Still, at the heart of this indelible film is Woodward's superb, deeply felt performance. Nominated for four Academy Awards — including best picture, actress supporting actress (for Parsons), and adapted screenplay — "Rachel" is a largely forgotten cinematic gem well worth discovering.