Bella

2007, Movie, PG-13, 91 mins

Review

BELLA
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The accidental death of a young girl and a pregnant woman's completely unrelated decision to have an abortion are uncomfortably linked in Mexican-born filmmaker Alejandro Gomez Monteverde's well-acted first-feature.

Well on his way to becoming an internationally famous soccer star, Jose's (CHASING PAPI's Eduardo Verastegui) career was tragically derailed the day before he was scheduled to sign a $2.2 million contract. While cruising the narrow side streets of Queens in his vintage Caddy, Jose accidentally struck and killed a little girl who ran in front of his car while playing hide-and-seek with her mother. After serving time for manslaughter, Jose now works in Manhattan as head chef at his brother Manny's (Manny Perez) upscale Mexican restaurant. When Nina (Tammy Blanchard), one of Manny's waitresses, arrives late for the busy lunchtime shift for a second day in a row, Manny fires her without giving her a chance to explain her situation: Nina has only just found out she's pregnant, and has been suffering morning sickness. In a show of support, Jose walks out with her, leaving his cell phone behind in the chaotic kitchen. Nina tells him she's decided to have an abortion; the father is no longer in the picture, she's flat broke, she's just lost her job, and she's in no position to raise a child on her own. Manny promises to stand by her side, but begs her to consider putting the child up for adoption. He invites her out to lunch, then to Queens for dinner with his parents (Angelica Aragon, Jaime Tirelli), his brother Eduardo (Ramon Rodriguez), and his brother's new girlfriend, Veronica (Ewa Da Cruz). As night approaches, Manny confesses the details of the accident that so changed his life, and Nina rethinks her decision to terminate her pregnancy.

The film never takes direct issue with a woman's right to choose, but the implication is that the choice isn't entirely Nina's to make (it's also strongly suggested that Nina, whose father died when she was 12, leaving her mother to raise Nina in a grief-stricken haze, doesn't understand the true nature of familial love). As film unfolds over the course of a single day and Nina learns all the facts about Jose's sudden career change, her ability to give birth to a child is positioned as a chance for Jose to reestablish the cosmic balance of life and death he upset through his own carelessness. And adoption is offered as a perfect solution: Manny, it turns out, was one of those children lucky enough to be adopted. Jose affects Nina's change of heart through a hearty application of guilt and pity, two particularly bad reasons for bringing children into this world. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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