Bella the Movie

Bella is a  lovely film about Jose (Eduardo Verástegui), a soccer star, who accidentally runs over a child in New York and is sent to prison for four years. When he is released he goes to work for Manny (Manny Perez),   his type-A personality  brother who owns a restaurant in Queens.Jose keeps his head down as the cook and lives as invisibly as he can.

Nina (Tammy Blanchard; The Good Shepherd) a waitress, arrives late for work two days in a row and Manny fires her.  She is so distraught, because she has just learned she is pregnant, that Jose hangs up his apron and goes after her to talk. They end up taking the train to visit his parents on Long Island. Nina obviously wants to terminate the pregnancy. Jose listens to her and shows her what a loving family is like when they sit down with his parents, another brother and his fiance for dinne. Along the beach Jose talks to her about Manny, who is his true brother and is adopted. Jose knows what he is living with for accidentally killing a child; though he barely speaks of this to Nina the audience understands and makes the subtle connections.

The filmmakers want us to know that this is not a movie for the “choir”; it’s for the general public and is  deliberately not preachy. It seeks to tells a story about life and the choices we make; it seeks to touch our hearts. Nina’s seeming lack of options is clear. She is all alone in the world, without resources, educati on, or skills; a situation all too common. The father is nowhere to be found. Know that Bella is not a catechism class; it is not a sermon. It is a story that seeks to touch the hearts of those who don’t or might not believe in life the way that we do.

Other themes are family, the surpises God sends you when you least expect them, generosity, forgiving yourself, listening, second chances, hope, faith, love, and grace.
Jose seems like a Christ-figure; he even looks like Jesus from his beard to his clothing. As the father of Nina’s baby is absent, another man steps in to save the situation. Some may think that this is typical – men always save the day in movies. But actually director and co-screenwriter Alejandro Gomez Monteverde gets it right. In the divine-human dynamic, grace helps us save one another.
The film won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006. The filmamkers are a wonderful group of men who want to use their talents to make movies that matter (they founded Metanoia Films together). And they cannot say it enough that it is not made for the choir – though all the choirs I have met who have seen it, love it.

It’s a low budget and knows it; the film never goes or gets beyond itself. Tammy Blanchard as the waitress is particularly good. Eduardo Verástegui as Jose is a former telenovela and rock star from Mexico, in other words, he’s gorgeous,  oh, and yes, a good actor, too.

The name choices are interesting:  Niña is Spanish for “girl” and Bella is Italian for “beautiful”.

Bella is a film with universal themes that shed light on the human condition. It is for everyone, not just the “choir.”


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