Reaching for the Moon is the story of the 15 year romance of American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. It’s a Brazilian production, released in 2013.
Reaching for the Moon begins and ends with Elizabeth Bishop (Mirando Otto) reciting her poem “One Art” to her friend Robert Lowell (Treat Williams). In the beginning, the poem was unfinished, only two verses. Elizabeth had more writing to do on it, but she was blocked.
She decided to go to Brazil to visit her old friend from Vassar, Mary (Tracy Middendorf). She found Mary living with Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires) who was considered an architect, although she had no formal training.
When it became obvious that Elizabeth and Lota were falling in love, Mary offered to leave. But Lota suggested she stay and they adopt a baby. Mary did, and the extended group of women living in the beautiful compound Lota was building raised her together.
Lota was unconventional in every way. She wanted it all and saw no reason why she shouldn’t have it. Glória Pires was outstanding in the role, bustling with energy and self-confidence and sexual charisma.
In the film, Elizabeth was pictured as shy and repressed. She was terrified of Brazilian food and refused to learn simple Portuguese words. Lota seduced her and brought out the latent lesbianism in Elizabeth. They stayed together for 15 years. Not all those years were happy because Elizabeth was an alcoholic.
The story is told here from a Brazilian perspective, and I think Elizabeth was more worldly and well-traveled than it seems in the film.
Lota built a gorgeous studio for Elizabeth to write in. Elizabeth wrote a Pulitzer Prize winner in that studio. Later in their relationship, Lota was given the job of designing Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro.
I saw this film years ago, but hadn’t written about it on Old Ain’t Dead. My Twitter friend Adriana Albuquerque reminded me about it, and I watched it again so I could write about it. Two women who had such an impact on the world and the life they shared made a beautiful and tragic love story.
The cinematography of Rio de Janeiro and the mountain compound Lota built was just gorgeous.
It’s available on Prime Video right now. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a watch.