In The Rain People, Natalie Ravenna (Shirley Knight) discovers that she no longer wants to be married, let alone have a baby now that she is pregnant. So she gets in her car and takes off. After driving for a while, she picks up a hitchhiker, Jimmy Kilgannon (James Caan), hoping to have some uncomplicated sex with him. The mistake is not that she thought she could have sex without getting involved. Her mistake, and it is a common one, is not realizing how complicated and involved things can become even if you don’t have sex at all.
It turns out that Jimmy cannot take care of himself on account of a brain injury sustained while playing football, and he has neither friends nor family to help him. She only thought she was trapped before. But it is a whole lot easier to desert a husband and abort a fetus than it is to abandon someone who is helpless, especially when he has a kind heart.
Fortunately, this is a movie, which resolves the problem by having him die in the end. Though she tried to leave him several times, she wishes he were still alive and could take care of him. But we in the audience know it was for the best. Trouble is, people get themselves in messy situations like this in real life, but there is no Hollywood ending to save them.
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