Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Movie Review

Bella

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief disturbing images

Reviewed by: Rev. Bryan Griem
CONTRIBUTOR

Good
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
1 hr. 31 min.
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
October 26, 2007; DVD: May 6, 2008
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Roadside Attractions
Life Before Birth
Have questions about life before birth, or a woman’s choice about pregnancy and abortion? Visit this beautiful online presentation. Ask questions; get reliable answers.
Featuring: Eduardo Verástegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manny Perez, Ali Landry, Angélica Aragón, Jaime Tirelli, Ramon Rodriguez, Lukas Behnken [more]
Director: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
Producer: Dan Genetti, Jason Jones, Matthew Malek, Stephen McEveety, Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, Denise Pinckley [more]
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

“True love goes beyond romance”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “An international soccer star (Eduardo Verástegui) is on his way to sign a multi-million dollar contract when something happens that brings his career to an abrupt end. A waitress (Tammy Blanchard), struggling to make it in New York City, discovers something about herself that she’s unprepared for. In one irreversible moment, their lives are turned upside down… until an impetuous action brings them together and turns an ordinary day into an unforgettable experience. Once a famous athlete, and now a cook at his brother’s Mexican restaurant, José has retreated from the world but he recognizes something in Nina, a young waitress, and reaches out to her. In the course of a single day, he not only confronts his past but shows her how the healing power of a family can help her embrace the future.”

What do you do when you’re on top of the world; fame and fortune are in your near future, and suddenly, through one tragic turn of events, all your plans of happiness crash to a halt? This is the scenario for the main character José, played by Eduaro Verástegui. Hailed as the new Antonio Banderas, Verastequi performs superbly as the unfortunate great Latino hope, gone missing. Because of his dashed dreams of stardom, José fades into a humble, though respectable existence as kitchen chef in the family business.

What is notable about this character is that despite his continued struggle with the events of the past, he concerns himself with the plight of others. He respects those with whom he works, and his reputation is that of a good man who is also good at his job. It is the atmosphere at the restaurant which sets in motion the healing of José’s psyche, and it reminds of the environment exhibited in so many reality cooking shows where a despot runs the kitchen and everyone is set on edge because of him. In Bella, however, it is not the chef but his fastidious brother, Manny (played by Manny Perez), who owns the restaurant and is constantly picking at his staff to perform. When Nina (played by Tammy Blanchard) arrives on the scene, she is running late to her job as one of the restaurant’s waitresses, and Manny fires her on the spot. Not only does he find her unreliable, but he also believes that she has been showing up hung-over on previous occasions. It is at this point that José follows after her and discovers her secret. It is her secret that has caused her lateness and recent ill-health as observed by her boss.

What follows is a date of sorts. José and Nina go off to explore the city, walk the beach, and share their life stories. Nina, it turns out, had a rough childhood. She has no husband or family, and her future looks bleak. José, on the other hand, had a good childhood and family life, and is still very active with his loving and intuitive parents, but he harbors the deep hurt from the big tragedy in his life, and he has become somewhat stagnant. He still seems much better grounded than Nina, and he almost appears Christ-like in both appearance and demeanor. Always in his white chef’s tunic, José sports a prophetic beard and hair ensemble, and peaceably plies Nina with observations and bits of wisdom that ultimately transform Nina’s heart. She finally decides what can only be called a good and correct course for her “problem,” thus redeeming the life of José, putting her own life on a path of recovery, and warming the hearts of the viewing audience.

Christians may differ in opinion regarding some of the life-ways of the people in the movie, as José’s family happily dance their cultural styles, and drink freely at their family meals. Drunkenness is not a factor, nor is their dancing in any way lewd. Smoking is shown in two instances: when José is celebrating his perceived impending success he puffs a cigar, and Nina’s character is a typical cigarette smoker. There is no profanity, even in moments where most movies would not have restrained their dialogue, yet Bella does just fine without. Neither are there any sexual situations, and nobody felt in anywise shortchanged for lack thereof. There are a couple of peculiar moments of angst in the characters, but no real violence to speak of until the unsettling scene of José’s downfall. That moment is well shot, leaving room for the imagination to do its work, though there is the brief depiction of spilled blood and the panic of the crowd. It is a powerful segment in the film, and one which is first off the lips when the moviegoers exit the theater.

I think Christians will be especially pleased at the various references and observations about God which are distributed throughout the movie, as well as the positive presentation of prayer, which comes off as a regular part of life. It is ironic that a film which won the People’s ‘Choice’ Award at the Toronto Film Festival, is so absolutely pro-life in its message. The choice in the movie is one that people of faith will applaud, and it is what makes the movie complete, bringing to an end the pain of all that went before. Something of interest here is how much the actress playing Nina (Blanchard) looks so similar to actress Hilary Swank, who did Million Dollar Baby. The similarity ends there, however, as the comparable messages of these two movies answer at completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

There are several flashback and flash-forward scenes which might create confusion for the viewer at times, but the movie is otherwise well shot and directed. There are also some minor parts where subtitles are necessary, when Spanish is spoken, but this is rather inconsequential and lends to the authenticity of the film—which is actually based on a true-life story. Any shortcomings of the film pale compared to the many things for which it is laudable; like its positive depiction of family life, making right moral decisions, forgiveness, love, and compassion for others. The negative impact of promiscuity, though deduced rather than discussed or depicted, is properly presented with its looming repercussions, and [SPOILER COMING] all the typical pro-abortion excuses are raised, being answered and countered with the birth of Nina’s child and movie namesake, Bella.

See the movie. It’s good in a biblical way, it’s worth supporting, and it will provide plenty of food for thought. You’ll enjoy it. It’s also culturally relevant and the secular community is talking about it. What an opportunity to extol the virtues of following Christ by connecting to nonbelievers who have in common with us the appreciation of good movies!

Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—A beautiful movie with a sweet message that supports family and helping others in time of need.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—CFG, age 48
Positive—This is a remarkable movie. True to independent film style, it is realistic, not stylized. It is subtly yet pointedly pro-life. The texture of the movie is just amazing, with plots and subplots and nuances woven together beautifully. I am encouraging all Christians to support this movie because of its message.
My Ratings: Good / 5
Halyna Barannik, age 61
Positive—“Bella” is edgy, yet sensitive towards the complexity of human relationships with rich Christian imagery woven into it. It is a love story about two people who rise above their conditions and allow love to take them into a more meaningful life. People want to see movies that have substance and value. They want to see real life situations, where reality and spirituality mystically meld together, triumphing over evil or difficult situations. “Bella” delivers! I sincerely hope Hollywood is paying attention so more roles are created to make life better instead of roles that demean and exploit the human condition. Extreme violence and gratuitous sex demean and corrupt the spirit. We become what we watch! The world is filled with enough violence, let’s help clean it up with more movies like “Bella”!
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Dawn Curazzato, age 57
Positive—…It has a great message concerning pro life and adoption. … Winner of the Toronto Film Festival and the People’s Choice Award…
—Michelle Clinton
Positive—I saw this movie just last night. What a truly amazing, beautiful, inspirational film. Nothing to criticize at all. You will truly enjoy this movie.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—E. W., age 21
Positive—A wonderful, subtly spiritual film that illustrates how God can write straight with crooked lines. The characters are honest and relate-able, and the pro-life theme is intertwined without being preachy. I thought the story line was a bit incomplete (I left the theatre with several unanswered questions), but still a worthwhile film. We need to support movies like this!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Kristin, age 28
Positive—After spending 14 years in the entertainment industry, it is refreshing to see a film that has a relevant message. What I truly enjoyed about this film was its subtlety and the acting. It never preached nor was it heavy handed. The vulnerability of the characters was evident; and it was beautiful to see in this film how the Lord can redeem any situation if we just let Him. It’s nice to see that movies like this can be made and win awards in a town that has a very liberal agenda in most everything it produces.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
—Stacy E., age 43
Positive—What an uplifting movie! It so refreshing to see a movie such as this come out of Hollywood itself. Surprisingly, we attended on a week night and the theater was almost three-quarters full. Although the movie is not big-budget, the acting is as good as it gets and you leave the theater loving the characters and understanding and sympathizing with their struggles and triumphs. More importantly, the pro-life message is unmistakable. It shows what Hollywood can do with the movie medium when used for good. Although the movie is clean with little, if any, offensive material, the theme is for more mature older children and adults. This is a wonderful film for the Christian community to support.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Pam, age 52
Positive—I can honestly say that this is one of the most beautiful movies that I’ve ever seen. I think everybody should see it, because it is one of those movies that is undoubtedly saving lives already, and continues to affect many people in such profound ways that it has the capacity to be a great catalyst to get others to get into action and start producing things that will help inspire good things… not the garbage out there that clearly comes from “the dark side.”

What I like most about this movie is that it shows how we, as human beings, made in the image of God, are capable of doing so much better when responding to our fallen world, and the people who are victims of it. It shows that when you deal with the the people caught in the situations, and treating them with love and compassion, instead of condemnation, love can overcome and conquer any sin that we may find ourselves in. God wants to redeem ALL of us regardless of what mistakes we have made… He never gives up on us. But, it’s a two way street. We have to turn toward Him.

I think people who are pro-choice need to see this movie because it will hopefully demonstrate to them that it is evil to hand down capital punishment to an innocent bystander, while somebody else gets rich for having done the execution. Reversing Roe V. Wade is not going to stop abortions. What will stop abortions is a conversion of the hearts and souls which can only be accomplished by the grace of God, and the casting out of demons. It has inspired me to go the extra mile and get more involved and to ask others to join me.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Laura, age 45
Positive—My parents and I saw “Bella” last night. I thought it was very well done; there was no sex or language, and the little scenes that could have been violent were mostly left to the imagination. However, I probably wouldn’t let young children see the movie until you’ve seen it first, because there is a somewhat traumatic scene with a car accident that could be too scary for them. The flash-forward scenes did leave me kind of confused at times, and I almost didn’t figure out the ending because I was thinking it was another one of those! so, just be aware of that. It just takes a little more thought while you’re watching, that’s all. Other than those few points—I would definitely recommend this movie!
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Julianna R., age 22
Positive—I can’t believe this movie has a moral rating of just “good.” We really should have a “REALLY good” option! This film was amazing and powerful. I want to buy it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—C Wells, age 33
Comments from young people
Positive—“Bella” was an awesome film!!!… I loved it. I first heard of “Bella” in May at Battle Cry, and I wanted to see it then. I was afraid that since I had waited so long to see it that I would be disappointed in it, but it definitely wasn’t. “Bella” was a great movie, and it was worth the wait.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Katelyn, age 14
Positive—“Bella” is definitely one of the best movies I have ever seen. My dad and I went to see it together, we weren’t sure what to expect, because we had not heard much about the film or seen any trailers. I was slightly unwilling to see the film because of this, but went anyway. I was very pleasantly surprised! Bella is a touching story of life, redemption, and agape love. I appreciated that this movie did not use any profanity, sexual references, nor was it overly graphic in scenes where violence was used. This movie was a love story, without being a romance. It showed that love can be expressed in many ways. I will definitely buy this movie when it is released on DVD.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Madeline, age 14
Comments from non-viewers
I’m missing something. After watching the trailer I was deeply traumatized by the scene of “Bella” on an operating table. Was that a dream sequence or real life? I was so traumatized by the few minute clip that there is no way I could possibly see the movie. I would suggest those who deal with issues relating to violence or who are very sensitive—run from this movie.
—Lottie, age 55