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Rachel, Rachel is a 1968 American drama film produced and directed by Paul Newman. The screenplay by Stewart Stern is based on the 1966 novel A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence.


Rachel Cameron is a shy 35-year-old spinster schoolteacher living with her widowed mother in an apartment above the funeral home once owned by her father in a small town in New Englandmarker. Fellow unmarried teacher and best friend Calla Mackie, a closeted lesbian, convinces her to attend a revival meeting led by Reverend Wood, and Rachel is encouraged to express her feelings by one of the preachers there. Calla also is inspired to explore her emotions, but when she reveals her physical attraction to Rachel, she is rebuffed by her friend.

When Rachel's former high school classmate Nick Kazlik comes to town to visit his parents, she succumbs to his charms and has her first sexual experience. Mistaking lust for love, she begins to plan a future with Nick, who rejects her once he realizes she views their relationship as more than a casual and temporary affair.

Believing she is pregnant, Rachel plans to leave town and have and raise the child. With Calla's assistance, she finds a job in Oregonmarker, but before she moves she discovers her expanding stomach actually is the result of a benign cyst. After undergoing surgery to have it removed, Rachel decides to relocate as planned and, with her mother in tow, she sets out for what she hopes will be a more promising future.


The film marked Paul Newman's directorial debut. It was shot in various Connecticutmarker locations, including Bethelmarker, Danburymarker, Georgetownmarker and Reddingmarker.

Newman's daughter Nell Potts portrays Rachel as a child in flashback scenes.


Critical reception

Time observed, "Stewart Stern often gets too close to the novel, adopting where he should adapt. Rachel is shackled with prosy monologues that should have been given visual form. Despite its failings, Rachel, Rachel has several unassailable assets . . . It is in the transcendent strength of Joanne Woodward that the film achieves a classic stature. There is no gesture too minor for her to master. She peers out at the world with the washed-out eyes of a hunted animal. Her walk is a ladylike retreat, a sign of a losing battle with time and diets and fashion. Her drab voice quavers with a brittle strength that can command a student but break before a parent's will. By any reckoning, it is [her] best performance."

Variety called it an "offbeat film" that "moves too slowly" and added, "There is very little dialog - most of which is very good - but this asset makes a liability out of the predominantly visual nature of the development, which in time seems to become redundant, padded and tiring . . . Direction is awkward. Were Woodward not there film could have been a shambles."

TV Guide rated the film 3½ out of four stars, calling it "a small, understated, and very sensitive film" and adding, "It could have been a drab, weepy story, but Stern and Newman collaborated to make it an inspiring one that proves one is never too old to change one's life."

Time Out London noted, "While in no way as powerful as Barbara Loden's Wanda, Newman's film none the less captures the quiet desperation of enforced life in sleepytown America."

Awards and nominations

DVD release

Warner Home Video released the film on Region 1 DVD on February 17, 2009.


  1. Time review
  2. Variety review
  3. TV guide review
  4. Time Out London review

External links

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