Carefully observed and beautifully shot, the film that launched American Zoetrope 40 years ago is an early herald of Coppola’s talent for crafting delicate narratives that actors can sink their teeth into. Natalie (Shirley Knight) is a Long Island housewife trapped in a loveless marriage and stifled by domesticity. Two months pregnant and unable to bear her humdrum existence, she hits the road on a quest for freedom that Roger Ebert dubbed the “mirror image” of Easy Rider. She soon finds solace with a brain damaged ex-football player (James Caan), whom she imagines as the father to her unborn child. Never fully able to disentangle herself from the life she left behind, Natalie briefly revels in her newfound freedom before reality comes crashing in. With penetrating performances by Knight, Caan and Robert Duvall, who plays a motorcycle cop, The Rain People is a poignant story of a woman wresting a second chance from the hands of fate. During filming, Coppola and his bare bones crew, which included the young George Lucas, traveled through 18 states on a mission of their own to prove that they could make it outside of the studio system.