Reviewed by: Rev. Bryan Griem
|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]|
“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.