Reaching For The Moon

6.91 h 54 min201313+
Set in 1950s Brazil, this sumptuous drama recounts Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto, "Lord of the Rings") and her love affair with famed architect Lota de Macedo Soares. From Oscar-nominated Brazilian director Bruno Barreto ("Four Days in September"), "Reaching for the Moon" is an intimate snapshot of the search for inspiration, wherever and however you find it.
Bruno Barreto
Miranda OttoGlória Pires
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Lucy BarretoPaula Barreto
Wolfe Video
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Alcohol usefoul languagesexual contentsmokingviolence
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4.4 out of 5 stars

307 global ratings

  1. 75% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 9% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 7% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

AmadeusReviewed in the United States on September 26, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Poise and love in Rio de Janeiro
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It’s beautifully acted and even more gorgeously made movie about American poet - pale creature that left New York to escape and found richness and love in Rio de Janeiro. It’s filled with nature, flowers, bold women - the one that brittle and the one that strong; and than they switched. It’s filled with poetry and architecture - the fields where male egos run supreme, but all we can see are gorgeous and driven females woven into each other. It was very captivating - you feel sorry that so few artistic endeavors can deal with complicated matters of love, politics, class and fate with grace of this movie. (Or I forgot the gender and sexuality within same one).
Muriel VasconcellosReviewed in the United States on June 7, 2015
3.0 out of 5 stars
Two brilliant women - ahead of their time
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I had hoped for more from this movie, considering its pedigree: director Bruno Barreto (View from the Top, Four Days in September, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands); the excellent cast, including Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings); and the compelling true story that it's based on. I read the book "Rare and Commonplace Flowers" in 2005, and my late Brazilian husband, architect Sylvio de Vasconcellos, knew all the main characters personally, so maybe I was expecting more content than could possibly be squeezed into a 2-hour film.
For those who aren't familiar with the story, American poet Elizabeth Bishop arrives in Rio de Janeiro on a freighter in 1951. She has a ticket to travel around the world and is taking advantage of the stopover in Rio to see her friend from Vassar, Mary Morse. Bishop is 40 years old and already well known for her poetry, having recently completed a stint at the Library of Congress in the position that was later to be called "Poet Laureate."
A self-declared lesbian with a string of lovers in her past, she soon discovers that Mary is living with Lota de Soares Macedo at a beautiful inland retreat not far from Rio. The scenery is breathtaking - and how could it not be? The views of the Brazilian landscape are worth the price of admission.
Hours after her arrival, Bishop bites into a caju fruit (the fruit that bears the cashew nut at its tip) and has a violent allergic reaction that nearly takes her life. She misses her boat and ends up remaining in Brazil for 15 years in a ménage à trois with Lota and Mary. It's worth noting that Bishop gets by on a fairly decent inheritance from her family and Lota is in similar circumstances, only much wealthier. This is a story about rich people who have a lot of time on their hands.
Otto's interpretation of Bishop is delicately nuanced; she does a masterful job of capturing the poet's moods and quirks. Glória Pires is powerful as Lota. From the old photos online, it would appear that they each bear a strong resemblance to the real person they are portraying. Yet somehow I didn't feel the chemistry between them, or with Mary. While the compulsive attraction between and among them is key to the story, it just didn't work for me. Also, I didn't feel the characters age, or the tensions deepen, over or the evolution of the 15-year relationship. Lota ultimately has a nervous breakdown, which is blamed on Bishop. We see her go straight from commander-in-chief of an enormous landfill project (creation of Rio's famous Flamengo Park) to a pathetic shadow in a mental hospital. If Bishop was the cause of Lota's breakdown, as a movie-goer, I want to understand why.
On another level, I was expecting credit where credit was due in the creation of Flamengo Park. Lota is billed as its creator and "architect," but the park was famously designed by architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.* Lota had no formal training in architecture. Furthermore, the house where she lived, which in the movie she claims she designed herself, was in fact designed by architect Sérgio Bernardes. He won a prize for it in 1953 at the II São Paulo Bienal.**
Still, if you want a movie that takes place in a beautiful setting and celebrates the accomplishments of two very strong, very independent women who broke the cultural mold of their time, you will be rewarded.
* For the story of my acquaintance with Burle Marx, see
** For the true story of Flamengo Park and Lota's house, see
25 people found this helpful
nickel platedReviewed in the United States on November 28, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
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What is the saddest thing in life? Could it be to find love and to lose it again? I think so. This is a beautifully crafted story. The cinematography is excellent, the dialogue meaningful, the acting so unlike acting that it seemed to me they were living their parts rather than portraying them. How could anyone review this story based on the sexuality of the main characters when the real story is the complications of love and loss and jealousy? This is not primarily about lesbianism, this is a story primarily about love, and love has no boundaries. We love whom we love, period!

One of the most fascinating, heartbreaking, yet brilliantly done stories I have watched. Bravo!!
One person found this helpful
KGReviewed in the United States on December 22, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A deeply moving, under-seen little gem
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I was sad to see this deeply moving, complex and intelligent story of the love between the award winning American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. so overlooked by U.S. audiences and critics. There are two outstanding performances by Miranda Otto as the outwardly shy and repressed alcoholic Bishop, and Gloria Pires as her opposite, an extroverted, highly emotional woman who coaxes Bishop out of her shell.

Very nicely photographed, this reminded me of the best of the Merchant-Ivory films. It's not flashy. Indeed there's a quiet to it
that is needed to off-set the melodramatic (even if based in truths) elements of these women's lives. But that doesn't keep it from packing a hell of an emotional punch, and in being bold enough to create characters we care for, but who are also deeply troubled and capable of making bad choices – just like in the real world of relationships we rarely see on screen.

It was also nice to see a gay love story that both acknowledged how difficult being homosexual was in the 1950s, while not becoming a film about that only. This is a film about a complex relationship between two highly creative and wounded souls who
both save and damage each other. The fact that both are women is only a small part of the larger story. It's also one of the only films I've seen capture at least a taste of the struggle and loneliness of the act of writing.

One of those quiet little gems that deserves to be discovered by more people.
61 people found this helpful
amy elizabeth marceauxReviewed in the United States on March 11, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
super sad but well acted
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I was really surprised at the level of acting and overall quality of this film. Let me explain- lesbian films or lesbian themed films that aren't directed by directors with lots of cred (see The Kids Are Alright), usually leave a LOT to be desired. Poor acting, poor dialogue, silly plots, cheap production, and unfortunate endings are only some of the problems facing lesbian cinema. I had no idea that this was based on a true story, and that made it more depressing- but that's okay because it was beautifully shot, acted, casted, produced, written, etc., that I wasn't mad. This was not a cheesy lesbian film. This is quality cinema that just happened to be about a lesbian relationship(s). Thank you, Reaching for the Moon!! Very nice. I wish there were more films like this and less like It's in the Water, Some Prefer Cake, Chutney Popcorn, Go Fish, A Perfect Ending, etc. If The Kids Are Alright hadn't showcased such big names as Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Josh Hutcherson and Mia Waskjkjilhlssalla, and I could get over the hotness that was Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in a lesbian relationship, then I would say that Reaching for the Moon actually did it better. (The fatal flaw in The Kids Are Alright was that someone thought it would be better or more realistic if one of the women had an affair with a man. Come ON!!!) Rent this film, buy it, whatever. Just watch it, because it was a major achievement in lesbian cinema. Just like Blue Is the Warmest Color- another stellar lesbian cinematic achievement.
15 people found this helpful
SaguaroGeorgeReviewed in the United States on May 29, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
The rich at play but sad, and you will be too
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Like so many modern films (and novels, but I am reviewing a film), sex can be shown in any desired permutation and combination – here a lesbian ménage à trois – but any discussion of money is taboo. The American, the poet Elizabeth Bishop, appears to have no money worries – she stops off in Brazil during a round-the-world trip, while the Brazilian disports vast wealth. What is the source of all this money? Never mentioned. Yet notwithstanding a lifestyle which 99.99% of humanity would envy, these three ladies contrive to be unhappy, often desperately so. Of course their sadness, which permeates the film, makes us sad. So, if you fancy watching a lesbian trio prove that no ménage à trois can be happy, no matter how buttressed with endless piles of money, have at it. By the way, there is very little actual sex in this film, really not nearly enough given the theme; except for a few words spoken in anger, this movie could be rated PG.
6 people found this helpful
DWReviewed in the United States on September 5, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Beautiful Played
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actually a beautiful movie of its time when lesbien couples where still more of a hidden society but seemed to be more open in Brazil... I m not sure on that as I have not looked that up .....Beautifully played by all the characters of the ups and downs of a infamous and famous women of their time. Although sad but also being a true story showing the struggles of all the women portrayed in this film......Elizabeth inspite of all her fear was able to find love and come out and be who she was more freely because of her adventure to Brazil.
Well worth the watch.
Rachel KennonReviewed in the United States on July 18, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
This isn't for folks wanting a happy ending. It's based on the true life relationship ...
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This isn't for folks wanting a happy ending. It's based on the true life relationship between famous American poet, Elizabeth Bishop, and the bigger than life architect/designer/civic planner Lota de Macedo Soares, and their story did not have a fairytale ending. But the movie is beautifully filmed, and American audiences will go crazy for the gorgeous and talented and very famous Brazilian actress, Glória Pires, who is brilliant as Lota. This is her first movie in English, and her command of the language is astounding. Ultimately, this is a story of a long love affair between two extremely talented yet very different women who lived a very real life together which unfortunately did not the happy ending I'm sure they both wanted. Great movie although it does veer from the book at times for dramatic purposes.
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