Written by Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, Patrick Million, Leo Severino. Directed by Alejandro Gomez Monteverde.
Bella: Life is Beautiful
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP
“My grandmother used to say,‘You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.’"
Jose (Eduardo Verástegui) is a soccer star who accidentally runs over a child in New York and is sent to prison for four years. When he is released he goes to work for Manny (Manny Perez), his type-A personality brother, who owns a restaurant in Queens. Jose keeps his head down as the cook and lives as invisibly as he can.
Nina (Tammy Blanchard; The Good Shepherd) a waitress, arrives late for work two days in a row and Manny fires her. She is so distraught that Jose hangs up his apron and goes after her to talk. Nina tells him she is pregnant. They end up taking the train to visit his parents on Long Island. Nina obviously wants to terminate the pregnancy. Jose listens to her and shows her what a loving family is like when they sit down for dinner with his parents, another brother and his fiancé. As they walk the beach Jose talks to her about Manny, who is his true brother and is adopted. Jose knows what he is living with for accidentally killing a child. Though he barely speaks of this to Nina the audience understands and makes the subtle connections.
The filmmakers want us to know that this is not a movie for the "choir"; it's for the general public and is deliberately not preachy. It seeks to tell a story about life and the choices we make; it seeks to touch our hearts. Nina's seeming lack of options is clear. She is all alone in the world, without resources, education, or skills; a situation all to common. The father is nowhere to be found.
Bella is a film about the surprisesGod sends you when you least expect them, coated in generosity, listening, second chances, hope, faith, love, and grace.
Jose seems like a Christ-figure; he even looks like Jesus from his beard to his clothing. As the father of Nina's baby is absent, another man steps in to save the situation. Some may think that this is typical - men always save the day in movies. But actually director and co-screenwriter Alejandro Gomez Monteverde gets it right. In the divine-human dynamic, humanity is grace that helps us save one another.
The film won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006. The filmamkers are a wonderful group of men who want to use their talents to make movies that matter. They cannot say it enough that it is not made for the choir - though all the choirs I have met who have seen the film, love it.
Bella is low budget and knows it; the film never goes or gets beyond itself. Tammy Blanchard as the waitress is particularly good. Eduardo Verástegui as Jose is a former telenovela and rock star from Mexico, who plays the quiet Jose with quiet dignity.