Friday, November 14, 2014


Director: Bruno Barreto

Writers: Matthew Chapman (Screenplay)  Julie Sayres (Screenplay)

Stars: Gloria Pires (Lota de Macedo Soares)
         Miranda Otto ( Elizabeth Bishop)
         Tracy Middendorf (Mary)
         Treat Williams (Robert Lowell)

Producers: Lucy Barreto
                 Paula Barreto

Reviewed by Hugh and Ann Aaron

  In this masterful biopic, we delve into the personal life 

of one of the great American poets, Elizabeth Bishop, set 

amidst the political turmoil of Brazil during the 1950s.

     We learn that Elizabeth has a poor opinion of her 

ability as a poet. We also learn that she may not be 

interested sexually in men, which opens up the possibility 

of what follows.

     Because of her seeming failure as a writer, she seeks a 

"vacation," spending an expected limited time with her 

college friend Mary, who lives in Brazil with her lover,

Lota, a talented, self-possessed, flamboyant and politically 

active architect. 
     Elizabeth is immediately shy and uncomfortable in the 

presence of Lota and Mary, shrinking from their 

uninhibited behavior. Lota, in turn, sees Elizabeth as stiff 

and cold. When Elizabeth confesses her deep insecurities 

about her poetry to Lota, there develops a primal 

connection between the two women. Elizabeth gradually 

welcomes Lota's sexual advances, releasing her own long 

repressed passion.

     Lota has designed a sublime, romantic environment in 

the Brazilian hinterland, creating a haven for Elizabeth to 

begin again writing her beautiful, touching poetry. She 

is fulfilled both romantically in her love for Lota, and 

creatively in her new found productivity. 

     All is happiness, except for her old friend Mary, who 

soon resents Elizabeth for replacing her in Lota's heart. 

Mary and Lota adopt a baby to ease Mary's discontent.

     Elizabeth’s published poetry collection eventually 

earns her a Pulitzer Prize. She is also invited to teach at a 

New York university and contribute on a regular basis to 

the New Yorker magazine. The offers are increasingly hard 

to resist as Lota becomes more and more demanding of her 

presence, bordering on possession.  Elizabeth returns to 

the States purportedly to teach for one semester before 

returning to Brazil and Lota, but her unraveling 

relationship with Lota leaves her return in question.

  It would be heartless of us to go on with the plot, 

which is rich in incident and full of surprises that you, the 

viewer, must experience. The cinematography captures the 

grandeur of Brazil. The characters are intimately 

understandable. The actors are superb. Most surprising, we 

had never heard of any of them, nor of the director.  

     This film deserves to be seen by all who love American 

poetry, by all who appreciate the conflicts we experience 

through life, and by all who realize that the world has its 

share of evil. 

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