If you've read the book 'Rare and Commonplace Flowers' by Carmen L. Oliveira you will know this intense and vivid story of the relationship between world-renowned poet, Pulitzer prize winner and writer Elizabeth Bishop and architect Lota de Macedo Soares.
This is a movie that leaves you in awe of the skills of movie making as you experience sumptuous visual cameos of the character's relationships and the ultra chic modern interiors of the Brazilian elite of the 50s. One could also leave the cinema completely wrapped in the story of these two iconic women and drained from having experienced the intense, sensuous, fractious, intelligent, creative, volatile and in the end tragic relationship between these two talented and individual women.
Bishop, deeply introverted, shy of her talent and at times socially out of touch struggling with personal turmoil and alcoholism meets the outgoing, intense, political and charismatic Brazilian de Macedo Soares. It is both a lustful romance, a relationship that drives creativity and greatness in both of them, and a tragic one where jealousy, control, flamboyance and introversion eventually drives them from each other and into the depths of despair.
The single-mindedness of Soares is epitomised in her treatment of Mary, her partner of 12 years prior to Bishop's arrival, who is swiftly dropped by Soares for the sickly introverted Bishop. Mary, following some anguish, decides to remain living with them both declaring her inability to part from Soares, bringing up a locally adopted daughter provided by Soares to help meet Mary's needs and to placate her heartbreak. The plot of the story is very much intertwined with the tension, jealously and relative power of each of the three women in the relationship.
Set in the 1950s the film cleverly pitches the significant Brazilian political unrest of the day with the strength, passion and turmoil within Bishop and Soares' relationship, and the sumptuousness and luxury of their social standing. The intensity of Bishop's writing paralleled with the flamboyance and tempestuousness of Soares' visionary planning of the Parque de Flamengo , the elaborate public park in the centre of Rio de Janeiro, brings the tale to an intense climax hallmarked but separation, breakdown, adultery and eventual tragedy.
The film, directed by Bruno Barreto, seamlessly changes location from Samambaia and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and New York City where Bishop moves later in life to teach poetry. Bishop moving away from the political intensity of Brazil at that time, which she professes in the movie to only vaguely understand, and Soares' almost fanatic focus on Parke de Flamengo's creation and construction.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie for its intensity, for the perfect craft of the actors and for the sumptuous visual representation of the women's relationship, in all its subtleties and ferocity, and the landscape and interiors of Brazil (and less of New York) at that time. Reaching For The Moon is a completely believable representation of the life and relationship of two iconic and talented women.