Reaching for the Moon (2013)

April 16th, 2014
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Bruno Barreto

Cast: Miranda Otto, Gloria Peres, Tracy Middendorf

Brazil 2013, 118 min.

In 1951, the poet Elisabeth Bishop (1911-1979), suffering from writer’s block, travels from New York to Rio de Janiero, on the advice of fellow poet Robert Lowell. There she visits her college friend Mary, who lives with the architect Lota de Macedo Soares (1910-1967) in an idyllic retreat in the countryside. Soares, an imposing, strong willed woman, clashes immediately with the fragile, introvert and shy Bishop, who wants to leave but food poisoning intervenes and she stays – for another 14 years.

Glória Pires (Lota), Miranda Otto (Elizabeth) (2)Barreto (Four Days in September) tries successfully to avoid a melodrama and succeeds in a character study of the three leads. Bishop, not surprisingly extremely neurotic after the loss of her father before her first birthday and the institutionalising of her mother when she was five, uses alcohol to dampen her fear of losing people close to her again. She says to Soares “I am not drinking only because things go wrong, I am drinking when I am happy too, because I am afraid to lose you”.

Miranda Otto (Elizabeth)-1

Winning the Pulitzer creates even more fear for Bishop, because the expectations are raised. Paris-born Soares, on the other hand. acts when challenged. Self-confident, she survives in a world ruled by men  – no mean feat, considering the balance of power between the sexes – particularly in South America during the fifties and sixties. She rules both Bishop and Mary, lovingly, but with a strong hand. Mary is by far the more socially responsible, compared with the self-obsessed Bishop, more attractive too – but Soares wants what she can’t get: the opposite of herself. In the end, her unsuccessful quest destroys her.

Gloria Peres is a brilliant Soares, vibrant and full of life’s optimism, whilst Otto is just right as the simpering, but sly Bishop. Middendorf’s Mary copes well with being “pig in the middle” in this tug of love and war. Camera work is lush and sumptuous, full of original angles and tracking shots. The music is staying well in the background, helping to bring a clearer understanding for the viewer, instead of drowning out all the nuances. But the greatest success for Barreto is that REACHING FOR THE MOON is neither a case celebre or a lesbian drama. AS

IN CINEMAS FROM 18 APRIL (ICA LONDON + BRIGHTON

DVD ON DEMAND FROM 28 APRIL 2014 WITH INTERVIEW AND FEATURETTE

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