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Grappling with writer's block, legendary American poet Elizabeth Bishop travels from New York City to Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s to visit her college friend, Mary. Hoping to find inspiration on her sprawling estate, but she winds up with much more - a tempestuous relationship with her bohemian partner, architect Lota de Macedo Soares, that rocks the staid writer to her foundation. Alcoholism, geographical distance and a military coup come between the lovers, but their intimate connection spans decades and forever impacts the life and work of these two extraordinary artists.
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-themed 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 little gems that deserves to be discovered by more people.
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