Bella (2006)



(director/writer: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde; screenwriter: Patrick Million/Leo Severino; cinematographer: Andrew Cadelago; editors: Fernando Villena/Joseph Gutowski; music: Stephan Altman; cast: Eduardo Verástegui (José), Tammy Blanchard (Nina), Manny Perez (Restaurant Owner, Manny), Angelica Aragon (José’s Mother), Jaime Tirelli (José’s Father), Ali Landry (Celia), Sophie Nyweide (Bella, Nina’s child), Ewa Da Cruz (Veronica), Ramon Rodriguez (Eduardo); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Mr. Severino/Eduardo Verástegui/Mr. Monteverde/Denise Pinckley/Sean Wolfington; Roadside Attractions; 2007-in English and Spanish with English subtitles)

“An inspirational ethnic soap opera story about two damaged sensitive souls coming together in a stressed-out New York City.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mexican-born Alejandro Gomez Monteverde’s first feature is an inspirational ethnic soap opera story about two damaged sensitive souls coming together in a stressed-out New York City. It’s co-written by Monteverde, Patrick Million and Leo Severino. Ithas the all too familiar saccharine flavorings and predictability of most such ethnic melodramas, and has its tearjerker scene to put up with as it wears its heart on its sleeve; but despite all its detract-ions and manipulations it takes its slight story so seriously and ennobles its sympathetic vulnerable characters with saving graces, so much so that the modest indie’s appealing life-affirming trajectory overcomes its sentimentality and forces us to look at the troubled protagonists as human beings and not as part of someone’s political or religious agenda. At least, I found it watchable from beginning to end because the leads were so pleasant and their innocent love was absurd but strangely believable as an urban fairy tale. It won the audience prize at the 2006 Toronto film festival.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

For the last four years the single white Manhattanite Nina (Tammy Blanchard) works in a city upscale Mexican restaurant as a waitress, where she’s outfitted with a Mexican costume. When she shows up late to work for the second time in a week, the flustered uptight restaurant owner, Manny (Manny Perez), cans her. The owner’s chef brother, the half Puerto Rican and half Mexican named Jose (Eduardo Verástegui, star Mexican actor), a former soccer star who five years ago accidentally ran down a little girl and served jail time for manslaughter, which ended his once promising soccer career, walks out during the height of the afternoon rush and spends the afternoon consoling Nina, who confides to him that she’s freaked out because she’s pregnant and there’s no boyfriend around and she’s planning on getting an abortion. We learn little else about Nina, except we feel her pain as one of those lost souls who is just getting by and is waiting for her break. The kindly Jose, who grew a beard after we see him clean-cut in flashback as a soccer star, gets her another job with a city restaurant owner he knows, takes her to his parents’ seashore Long Island suburban home for an authentic Latino home-cooked dinner and evidently talks her out of aborting the baby (named Bella, which finally explains the title) as we see them years later as a family on the beach.

It’s a touching film that ends on an upbeat note like a Hollywood film, with a Hallmark Card look of a nuclear family on a beach, yet it has slight edge as it leaves an unsettling glow about America as a land of opportunity, a melting-pot, a place that still retains old-fashioned values and still has a heart for the underdog.


REVIEWED ON 11/17/2007 GRADE: B-