Friday, November 30, 2007


Any movie that ends with one of my favorite hymns (Draw Me Nearer, Fanny Crosby) and cherishes the sanctity of unborn human life would vie for my recommendation. But Bella ("People's Choice Award" winner at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival) is not just "any movie."

Anything but a "ludicrous, saccharine urban fairy tale" (New York Times Review), Bella artistically and vividly explores the themes of suffering and redemption in a film as rich as any Dostoevsky novel.

Within the short ninety minute film, I was ushered into a fast-paced New York City reality where a young Hispanic chef, Jose, suffering the haunting memories of the past - a lost career in professional soccer and an accident that landed him in prison - finds himself the only sympathetic friend of a young woman, Nina, who in fear and loneliness, is not planning to carry her pregnancy to term.

The anachronistic film, inspired by a true account, follows the progression of fear into trust ("Are you scared?" "No, I've done a little research - ten out of ten people die."), of control into surrender ("My grandmother used to say, 'If you want to be sure to make God laugh, tell him all of your plans.'") of anger into love and of loneliness into friendship. Within the circular scenes, we find that it is the wounded and afflicted one who sees most clearly and loves the most genuinely. A blind man, begging on the city street, holds a sign that poignantly summarizes Jose's faith journey, "God closed my eyes and now I see."

In addition to a theme that prompts its viewer to slow from the busy pace of life and take time for the fostering of relationships, Bella contains a beautifully descriptive cultural account of a close-knit Hispanic family. A very significant portion of this movie was recorded in Spanish and for its artistic and cultural portrayals alone, the "saccharine" label of the NYT should be dismissed.

For our local readers who are interested in watching Bella on the big screen, the Lyceum Theater in Red Hook is showing the film for only one week starting today, November 30th. Movie times are 1:15, 3:15, 5:14, 7:15, and 9:15 PM.