Bella, released in 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival, is one of those movies that I really meant to see, but never got around to it. Thanks to Netflix, I finally did, and wow, what a great movie!
The story, which takes place in one day, may get a little confusing as the backstory unfolds in flashbacks. Jose, a soccer star who has just signed a lucrative contract, accidentally kills a small child and serves time in prison. After his release, he works in his brother’s restaurant as a chef, where he meets Nina, a waitress who has a brief affair (not with Jose) which ends in an unplanned pregnancy. Nina’s solution is to end the pregnancy, but Jose has other ideas, and Nina changes her plans (as shown in flash-forwards, confused yet?). The subtle anti-abortion message is so powerful, that I can see why pro-life groups adopted this movie and helped to heavily promote it.
I enjoyed the portrayal of Jose’s family and particularly his interaction with his brother Manny, whose compulsive reactions Jose responds to with calm dismissal. Such as when Manny fires Jose, who simply walks out the back door of the restaurant, then returns the next morning and cooks Manny breakfast as if nothing happened.
My favorite scene has to be Jose, sitting with a rosary in his hand, while Nina is taken into the back of the abortion clinic. It’s something you might miss, if you weren’t Catholic, but to me, it screamed the power of Our Blessed Mother’s intercession.
Bella is a story about imperfect people, living sometimes difficult lives and facing complicated choices. It’s about the power of God bringing awesome good out of our human weakness.