Nita is the divorced mother of two young boys in Gregory, Texas. It is 1944 and she is "frozen" in a demanding job as the small town's only telephone operator. All the eligible young men are away at war. Two ex-cons, convinced that Nita is easy because she is divorced, plot to take advantage of her. A brief affair with Teddy (Eric Roberts), a war-bound sailor on a four-day leave, lifts her spirits but only accentuates her sons' longing for a daddy.

Raggedy Man is directed by Jack Fisk who served as production designer for Badlands, Carrie, and Days of Heaven. One of the strong points of the film is his eye for detail and local color. The screenplay by William Wittliff, who penned Honeysuckle Rose, provides a down-home profile of a woman straining under several oppressive burdens — including the community's lack of tolerance for her situation.

Sissy Spacek's performance is touching. Her acting is especially vivid in small moments — for example, when Nita dances with her broom to the radio strains of the Andrew Sisters' "Rum and Coca Cola." Still the role lacks the substance of her multilayered portrait of Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter. The title of the film refers to a mysterious fellow (Sam Shepard) who hangs around the periphery of the story until the end when he proves to be Nita's guardian angel.