Once a famous footballer, Josè (Eduardo Verástegui) now works at his brother Manny's (Manny Perez) restaurant as a cook. But when Manny summarily sacks waitress Nina (Tammy Blanchard), for being late for the second day in a row, Josè follows her outside and while trying to console her, learns she was late because she had a pregnancy test that proved positive. She intends to have an abortion, but he tries to talk her out of it and reveals the trauma that ended his soccer career. And he suggests a possible alternative.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Winner of the People's Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, Bella is a gentle, life affirming love story with a difference: it's not a romantic love story. One of the recent crop of Mexican films that resonate with audiences around the world, Bella is a small film with a big heart and a carefully calibrated, bitter sweet story about a young man, his fatal mistake and his redemption.
Eduardo Verástegui is a handsome and charming if low key Josè, and Tammy Blanchard delivers an effortless and engaging Nina. (The Christian references, including his beard and white outfit, might seem a tad overdone, though...) Their relationship is the vehicle through which the real story is told, with help from a terrific supporting cast, including Manny Perez as the restaurateur brother and Angelica Aragon and Jaime Tirelli as Josè's life loving parents. There is lots of food, some casual humour and a recognition that some pain in life can never be made to disappear, although it can be muted and managed.
Writer/director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde steers a careful course between melodrama and schmaltz to explore people behaving nicely in a difficult situation - which makes a change. Nina's traumatic childhood and present state of isolation is a contrast to Josè's happy family surroundings, a fact that impacts on her choices. But these factors are not thrust at us; they are observations we are encouraged to make, which draws us into the film and its characters.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like the kite that soars in the sky in the film's last frame, our hearts are uplifted by this warm and involving film that canvasses themes of love, loss and friendship. 'Plans change,' Eduardo Verástegui's Jose tells Tammy Blanchard's Nina, as they start to learn more about each other. Director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde tackles the sensitive themes with a gentle touch and slowly we learn more and more about both characters.
A simple trigger takes us from the present to the past: a dragonfly in the sink is a reminder of a little girl playing hide and seek with her mother. There are boys kicking soccer balls on the pavement; a pregnancy test; a busy kitchen; an unused dusty Ford; a loving family. There are decisions to be made, relationships to nurture and lives to face.
Director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde has co-written the script with Patrick Million, jumping backwards and forwards through time, allowing us to understand the circumstances into which the characters find themselves. Both Jose and Nina are at the crossroads: Jose carries the heavy load of his conscience, while Nina is struggling to cope with her circumstances. Actions and consequences are the film's mainstay as it delves into the lives of two lost souls. When Jose takes Nina to his close-knit family's home in Pennsylvania, she is overcome by the warmth and happiness the family shares. Suddenly there is a new perspective from which to address the future. And for the first time Jose is able to revisit the past and start again.
Bella is a gentle film with a big heart. The characters are like people we could meet anywhere any time. Their journey is one we embrace and we care about the decisions made. When a blind man on the streets of New York asks Nina to describe what she sees, she tells him 'it's just an ordinary day... people rushing back and forth, cars driving, everyone's got somewhere to go, somewhere to be, nobody really cares about nothing, it's like a huge living clock, it never stops.' It is not until the blind man says 'I wish I could see that,' that we recognise how big the small things in life really are.
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CAST: Eduardo Verástegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manny Perez, Ali Landry, Angelica Aragon, Jaime Tirelli, Ramon Rodriguez
PRODUCER: Jason Jones, Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, Denise Pinckley, Leo Severino, Eduardo Verástegui, Sean Wolfington
DIRECTOR: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
SCRIPT: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Cadelago
EDITOR: Joseph Gutowski, Fernando Villena
MUSIC: Stephan Altman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Richard Lasalle
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2008