MRR Review: "Reaching for the Moon"

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Reaching for the Moon (Portuguese: Flores Raras) is a 2013 Brazilian biographical drama film directed by Bruno Barreto. The film is based on the book Flores Raras e Banalíssimas, by Carmem Lucia de Oliveira.
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MRR Review: "Reaching for the Moon"

Rating: NR Length: 118 min
Release Date: August 16, 2013
Directed By: Bruno Barreto
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance

"Reaching for the Moon," originally titled "Flores Raras," is a 2013 film starring Miranda Otto and Glória Pires. Directed by Bruno Barreto, the film tells the heartbreaking love story of the American poet named Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares, a brilliant Brazilian architect and artist. The movie begins when Elizabeth visits a close friend from college who lives in Brazil. She meets Lota and is immediately swept off her feet by the other woman's charm and sophistication. Lota is as passionate about her career as an architect as she is about enjoying every moment of life.

Although both Lota and Elizabeth are middle-aged, they discover the loves of their lives and more passion than they imagined they could have experienced in their younger days. The couple settles down in Brazil and enjoys a small amount of bliss before events take a dramatic and tragic twist. When old friends and lovers emerge, things become more complicated for the couple until things culminate unexpectedly.

As "Reaching for the Moon" progresses, Lota's eccentricities devolve into something darker. Elizabeth is forced to accept that her beloved is mentally ill and deal with the effects of this on their relationship. Few other scripts manage to tackle such deep and emotional issues while maintaining a sense of brevity. The setting on the beautiful Brazilian coastline helps add a sense of wonderment and beauty throughout the movie and is the perfect backdrop for Lota and Elizabeth's relationship.

Glória Pires does a brilliant job of portraying Lota, whose character is based on a real woman of the same name. Lota is eccentric and vibrant, and while she seems larger-than-life and effortlessly perfect at the beginning of the film, Elizabeth realizes as time passes that Lota is just as flawed and in many ways seeking the same answers as Elizabeth. Miranda Otto gives an equally stunning performance as the shy Elizabeth, whose understated charm captures the audience's attention from the moment she appears on screen.

The most intriguing element of "Reaching for the Moon" is the flawed yet beautiful romance between Lota and Elizabeth. Both women acknowledge their personal quirks and imperfections but ultimately find a way to make them work together. Their romance does not come without challenges, both internal and external. They may live in a breezy island paradise, but the couple faces significant discrimination from those who don't understand their relationship. Another major source of conflict is Lota's often selfish ways and penchant for dismissing her partner's feelings. Elizabeth ultimately learns to stand on her own and demand that Lota give her the respect she deserves in return for her devotion.

Not to be overlooked is the beautiful yet understated soundtrack that adds just the right amount of suspense throughout the film. Rather than a traditional start-to-finish narrative, "Reaching for the Moon" comes off as a casual glance into a couple's lives as the lovers progress through time. Unlike other romances, "Reaching for the Moon" proves that sometimes the most intense and beautiful affairs can begin later in life and that people don't have to have everything together by the time they hit middle age. Elizabeth and Lota embark on a journey to discover themselves and the meaning of life during the best, most active years of their life, and that journey takes them to both beautiful and tragic destinations.

Individual growth is another major theme in this well-paced drama, particularly when it comes to Elizabeth. When Lota's character breaks down, revealing the flawed yet original person behind a mask of intrigue and uniqueness, Elizabeth is forced to develop into a strong and confident woman. At the beginning of the film, she is reluctant to share her work with anyone, but the love she shares with Lota ultimately teaches her more about herself and reveals to her that she can stand up for the things she loves. By the end, she is more at home in her own skin and able to own her experiences, both the good and the bad.

Ultimately, "Reaching for the Moon" is a charming biographical romance that captures the relationship between its two main characters beautifully and honestly. Few films provide such a candid look into the lives of real people, managing to share the stories of their triumphs and struggles in equal light. Director Bruno Barreto manages to create a film that flows with the effortless storytelling of a novel yet remains historically accurate to its characters.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars