Luxuriating in its 50s Rio setting, Bruno Barreto’s film tells the turbulent true story of American poet Elizabeth Bishop and her love affair with the Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. Feeling stale in Manhattan, Elizabeth (burning with intelligence and inhibition in Mirando Otto’s performance) accepts an invitation to Brazil. Mary, an old Vassar College friend, is staying at Lota’s stunning Samambaia estate. (Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and the landscapist Roberto Burle Marx, it is guaranteed to induce serious House and Garden lust.)
Elizabeth is unnerved to discover that the two women are lovers. The flamboyantly demonstrative Lota (Glória Pires) guesses exactly why Elizabeth might be so sensitive. As she taunts the priggish New Englander, the conflagration of opposite temperaments seems inevitable. Their passion is fuelled over the years by many trials, not least Lota’s continuing involvement with Mary. Lota is a de facto supporter of the 1964 coup détat. Elizabeth, once she has a few drinks inside her, is not too shy to berate her lover’s right-wing patrons. But as their love story unravels, each retains her fierce commitment to making art which endures today: Bishop’s poetry and architect Lota de Macedo Soares’ magnificent Flamengo Park in Rio.
“The strength of Reaching for the Moon is in the strong – and very different – performances from Miranda Otto and Glória Pires. Pires is a vibrant and charismatic force of nature, and is perfect as the frank and down-to-earth Lota, while Miranda Otto’s shy elegance nicely fits with complex characteristics of Elizabeth Bishop.” — Mark Adams, Screendaily