This dramatic biopic illuminates the long-term love affair between American poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires).
The screenplay, written by Matthew Chapman and Julie Sayers, is based on real events documented in the book Rare and Commonplace Flowers by Carmen L Oliveria, which follows the turbulent life Bishop endured through childhood loss and self-doubt.
Brazilian director Bruno Barreto’s film begins in 1951. Bishop is seeking refuge from writer’s block and travels to Brazil to spend time with former school friend Mary (Tracy Middendorf) and her partner, Soares, at their sprawling estate outside Rio de Janeiro.
The introspective and reticent Bishop is initially challenged by Soares’ extroverted manner and proud declaration of her architectural achievements, but an attraction is sparked between these polar opposites.
Majestic scenery and exquisite cinematography highlight the contrasts of light and shadow on the surrounding landscapes and within the events that shaped the artistic contributions of these complex women
An unconventional lifestyle endowed with lavish indulgence serves to fuel creativity. Soares works with parliamentarian Carlos Lacerda (Marcella Airoldi), overseeing the plans and construction of Flamengo Park, Rio de Janeiro’s equivalent of New York City’s Central Park. Meanwhile, Bishop receives a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for North and South, her collection of poems and short stories, and is subsequently considered one of the most important poets of our time.
The story provides a detailed history of events at the time, namely the political unrest in Brazil. Leading performances by Otto and Pires are convincing and consuming.
This film offers much more than a history of two iconic figures and the story of extremes expressed through art. It depicts the unsettling truth that foundations sown together and left untethered can become fertile ground for unleashing obsessions, addictions and human frailty.
© Patricia Herreen 2014