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2006 films

a review by Tom Condon, OP

Synopsis: Jose (Eduardo Verastegui) used to be a superstar soccer player making millions of dollars. But, after falling on hard times, he's forced to work in his brother's Mexican restaurant. It's not all bad, though, especially when he falls for a pretty young waitress

Weeks before it opened locally, I was receiving e-mail’s and hearing publicity about this film for its pro-life message.  An unmarried young woman confronted with an unwanted pregnancy considers abortion, but reconsiders.  I also heard that Bella won an audience award at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.  So, I went to see it the first weekend it opened. 

I wish I could be a lot more enthusiastic about recommending Bella.  Although I support its message, it’s not much of a movie.  It is so short and slight, it’s more like a cable TV movie.

The plot of Bella centers around Nina (Tammy Blanchard), a young woman fired from her job as a waitress because she has been late one time too many.  Jose (Eduardo Verastegui), the head chef and brother of the owner, Manny, is sympathetic to Nina and goes out on the sidewalk to talk with her.  Jose ends up spending the day with Nina.  They tell each other their stories.  Nina’s father died when she was 12.  Her mother was so overcome by grief that she ignored Nina, who basically raised herself.  Jose is a promising Mexican soccer player whose career came to a halt as the result of a tragic accident.  Nina now finds herself pregnant, unemployed and alone.  Jose befriends her, and challenges her plans to abort the pregnancy.

The basic concept of the film has potential, but it never develops.  The writing and direction are flat.  However, one scene stands out.  Jose brings Nina to his family home, alive with color, laughter, and wonderful food.  There’s an energy in the scene which is absent from the rest of the movie.  This shows what the rest of the film could have been like.

Another plus is also the ethnicity of the film.  Mexican Alejandro Monteverde directs a cast of Mexican and Anglo actors.  A good bit of the dialogue is in Spanish with English subtitles. 

Sadly, Bella never picks up much steam.  Throughout most of the film, Nina and Jose walk through the streets of New York and talk about her predicament.  Despite all their talk, I never felt drawn into their lives.

The ending of the film is also problematic.  The final scene leaps four years into the future.  The transition is awkward.  Nina is different, but Jose, with his long beard, looks exactly the same (was he was made up to resemble Jesus?)   I wondered about the motivations of Jose as well.  Is he only trying to make up for the sin of his past? 

In conclusion, one could certainly do a lot worse than Bella. I suspect that it was made to get its point of view across, which it does.  I wish more thought had been given to the dramatic elements and character development.  As it is, I don’t imagine the film will be a source of conversion (Metanoia is the name of the production company) to anyone who didn’t already share the filmmakers point of view.

Tom Condon, OP 


The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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