Bella explores love in the midst of the unexpected
It’s a pleasant surprise to buy a ticket and a bag of overpriced popcorn at the neighborhood megaplex and then watch a film that beautifully illustrates the guiding principles of our faith.
The value of life, sacrificial love, the bonds of family and friends, service, compassion, redemption – it’s all there in Bella, a low-key independent film that’s getting a lot of buzz. In the film, we meet:
> Nina (Tammy Blanchard), an unmarried waitress dealing with an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. She’s sick, confused and fears the future; and
> José (Eduardo Verastegui) who used to be a popular professional soccer player with a multi-million dollar contract. After a tragic accident drains all the passion out of his life and still haunts his waking hours, he grows a heavy beard and becomes the head chef at his brother Manny’s restaurant.
At the start of another busy day in Manhattan, Nina reports late to work again, causing the hotheaded Manny to fire her. However, José overhears their argument and is moved by Nina’s plight. He leaves the restaurant to help her sort things out.
During a ride on the subway, Nina tells José she has no interest in the baby she now carries. She tells him that she plans to go to the clinic next week and have an abortion.
> 848,163 abortions took place in the United States in 2003, as reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
José asks if she would instead choose to deliver the baby and then put the child up for adoption. But Nina is hardened by her own upbringing in a loveless house and her difficult financial situation. “I can’t have this baby and watch it suffer with me,” she tells José.
With nowhere else to go and few options for her future, Nina agrees to spend the day with José. Along the way, they meet a blind man who asks her to describe the day. When she obliges, he thanks her for sharing her vision with him.
> An abortion occurs every 25 seconds in the United States, as reported by Tennessee Right to Life.
Then at lunch at another restaurant owned by José’s friend, Nina receives an offer to waitress at the restaurant. Suddenly, her dark future begins to look a bit brighter.
Later they travel by train to his parents’ home on the shore, where Nina receives a very warm welcome and an invitation to stay for dinner. She tells José that he is “seriously lucky” to have such a good family.
> 17,610 abortions took place in Tennessee in 2003, as reported to the CDC.
José needs his family, as he is still burdened by his past. José shares with Nina the details of the accident that turned his promising soccer career into a four-year nightmare. He still aches for the sorrow he caused. Through it all, his family is there to love and support him.
“My grandmother used to say,” José tells Nina, “if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
Nina and José spend the rest of the night on the beach talking about families, friendship and the future. They manage to share their darkest moments and then find comfort and strength in their friendship. This leads to the end of the film, when we discover that bella is more than the Spanish word for beautiful.
> If you or someone you know has a question about a crisis pregnancy or the adoption process, please call 1-877-246-6735.
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, talked about the film in a recent interview. “In a day of Hollywood’s excesses, profanities and foolishness, this sensitive film speaks eloquently of life, love and beauty.”
The Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says the film “… has an affirmative pro-life message, along with themes of self-forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption that should resonate deeply with Catholic viewers.
Eduardo Verastegui, who produced the film and also portrays José, says his character never tells Nina what do to after raising the question of adoption. “He opens his own wound to her so she can see how wounded he is. He opens the doors of his house to her so she can see what family is…He shows love, because love and truth conquer everything.”
“What I’d love to see happen with this film is to someday have this 12-year-old knock on my door and say that her mother was going to have an abortion, but she saw this film. That would be my Oscar.”
First published in the November 2, 2007 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2007 Christopher Fenoglio.