Movie Review: Bella
Sometimes it’s difficult to find a context in which to talk with those close to us about adoption. These conversations can come more naturally after having just seen a film that deals with it.
Bella tells two stories. The immediate plot involves a twenty-something waitress named Nina (Tammy Blanchard) who, faced with an inconvenient pregnancy, decides she is not ready to be a mother. When she is late to work for the third time because of morning sickness, her manager, Manny (Manny Perez), assumes she has a hangover and fires her. Nina confides in the restaurant’s quiet (and extremely attractive) head chef, JosÃ© (Eduardo VerÃ¡stegui) â€“ who happens to be Manny’s brother. When JosÃ© learns of Nina’s condition, he walks out on the job to accompany her for the day. Their ambiguous relationship drives the film.
While the gravity of Nina’s situation lays the narrative foundation, the plot thickens as JosÃ©’s mysterious past begins to unravel. It’s clear he doesn’t want Nina to have an abortion, but his reasons are more profound than we might imagine. The progressive revelation of his tragic back-story makes up a large part of the film.
Social buzzwords abound. Unwed pregnancy, abortion, and to say the subject of adoption is broached would be an understatement. Sounds like another agenda movie that sacrifices an honest story for a heavy-handed message. A piece of propaganda â€“ not art, right?
Wrong. The picture plays with all the vulnerability and grit of real life. The characters are flawed, conflicted, and broken. They are as much prone to offend as they are to inspire and the resolution is messy if not beautiful.
Bella has received a lot of criticism from the entertainment industry because it’s been touted as a Christian movie. I don’t think the film in and of itself warrants any of the hostility. It really isn’t a ‘Christian’ movie, but more importantly, the cast, direction, and cinematography are as sound as the story. It actually won The People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. To those not familiar with the world of independent film â€“ that’s a big award.
While the gospel is never ‘presented,’ there is a lot of life and a lot of redemption. We find beautiful examples of patience, sacrificial friendship, forgiveness, humility, family, and (very importantly) singleness. There are some hard scenes to watch but the film is fairly family-friendly. There is no sex and no explicit language. There is one brief (and extremely tragic) incident involving some violence. Bella is appropriately rated PG-13. You know what you and yours can handle viewing, so be discerning.
If you want to spark some discussion with family and friends around adoption, and the myriad circumstances that surround it, Bella makes an effective and entertaining vehicle.