I’ve been hearing quiet buzz about this movie for weeks-and I didn’t know why.
Now I know.
Bella is a quiet, emotionally-engaging film that explores the wonder of life through the interplay of several compelling (and true) stories. There’s a hard-working, multi-generational urban Hispanic family, including hard-driving Manny, who runs a restaurant. His brother, Jose, was an international soccer star whose career was cut short by a horrible accident that left him emotionally scarred; now he’s the chef for his brother. Then there is Nina, pregnant and struggling to make it in the city, who gets fired for showing up late for work–again. That’s about all I want to sketch because to give away too many details of the stories would ruin the experience.
The film traces the transforming surprises in one day-and the ripples-in-the-pond implications from them. There are no car chases or stuff blown up, no blood and gore, no sex scenes or leering language (nor any cursing), no CG or avatars. Bella simply has life-real conversations, simple joys, relationships, wasting grief, moral dilemmas (particularly the interplay between abortion and adoption), faith, hope, failure, redemption, simple kindness and “our capacity for love in the face of the unexpected”. The fact that the actors are unknowns makes it easier to sink into the story-and some moments are positively riveting (like when a blind street artist simply asks Nina to describe the day for him).
Bella is one of those rare films that manages to be faith or values-based without being clumsily moral, plastic and unrealistic, or turning into a Billy Graham film with an evangelistic invitation at the end. It is artful (winner at the Toronto Film Festival and a featured selection at several others), beautiful, and thought-provoking. It is the sort of film that you can watch with unbelieving friends, and have a great conversation over coffee afterwards. It is the sort of film that tells a story Christians can use to actually talk about moral issues-and the God behind them.
But mostly, Bella is a simple, beautiful story that celebrates life-and leaves you with a fresh, wonder-full delight in the lives you intersect everyday.
Bella is now showing at Regal Hamburg in Lexington. The movie’s website, including the trailer, is here.