Bella is a gentle introspective film by Mexican born director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde. It stars Mexican heartthrob Eduardo Verastegui and newcomer Tammy Blanchard. The film was the surprise winner of the 2006 People’s Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival. Bella skillfully details both sides of a highly emotional issue in such a leisurely way that I barely noticed it until the end.
Jose (Verastegui) is a soccer star on his way to a press conference to announce his new big contract. Suddenly, a young child runs out in front of his car. He runs her over and kills her. Jose spends the next several years in jail.
Fast-forward to bustling New York City. Jose is the head chef at his brother’s restaurant. Jose’s brother, Manny (Manny Perez) is a hard task master expecting his employees to be as perfect as himself. Nina (Blanchard), a waitress at Manny’s restaurant, is late for work again. In front of all of the employees, Manny fires Nina without allowing her to explain her reason for being delayed.
Feeling sorry for Nina, Jose chases after her leaving his brother without a head chef for the lunch time rush. When Jose catches up to Nina, she explains she was tardy because of morning sickness. Throughout their day together Jose tries to convince Nina to keep the baby. He takes Nina to his parent’s home showing her that a loving close family is possible. Then they go to the beach where Nina shares her painful childhood involving the death of her father. Jose seems desperate to save the life of the unborn child to atone for the life that he took.
Throughout the majority of the film Verastegui has a full unkempt beard and long hair. He looks dirty. Someone on the street even mistakes him for a homeless person. I know the beard represented his depression and haunted past, but it was too much. I would not eat a meal made by anyone with such poor hygiene. Besides the facial hair, Verastegui’s performance was spot on and captivating. Tammy Blanchard as Nina was delightful to watch. She had noticeable chemistry with Verastegui. I could feel and see her struggle over her decision. I’m looking forward to seeing more from her in the future.
This was a risky and heavy topic to tackle for first time director Monteverde. This film flowed so smoothly and seamlessly that the profound message was almost lost. The movie is only an hour and a half long, but it felt slow and long. It definitely could have used some testosterone. I hope Monteverde has learned that he does not have to walk on egg shells to appease everyone when focusing on a taboo issue.
Overall, the film was thought provoking and touching, but not for everyone.
DVD features include a making of documentary and interviews with the cast and director.