Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Thoughtful drama which covers 24 painstaking hours in the lives of chef José and his friend / ex-colleague, waitress Nina.

Nina is sacked for being repeatedly late. José finds himself accidentally walking-out over it, which is something of a source of tension given that their manager is also his brother.

However he has a good reason. His good reason is that Nina had a good reason for being late – she's just discovered she's pregnant. Alas, this is the sort of good reason that José can't really put into an explanation without betraying Nina's confidence.

Nina intends to have an abortion. Well-intentioned José tries to talk her out of it. He fails. He especially backs-off when she offers to have the kid and give it to him to raise.

Apparently not having anything else to do with the day, they wind-up going back to José's place, where she meets his parents and discovers that he previously spent several years in prison for accidentally running-over and killing a child.

His ongoing guilt and grief, expressed in his attempt to save her baby, might just put the value of Nina's child's life into another perspective for her, but it doesn't.

The next day, she goes to the abortion clinic. She exits in tears. We're not initially told whether they are the tears of loss, or of something else.

Though it only runs the standard hour-and-a-half, Bella is quite a slow-moving film, because it really gives the characters enough time to spread-out in each scene. It's not a film where I felt as though I was watching real people, these are still movie-characters, but it's unusual to see them given so much breadth.

The ending has the distinction of being quite positive, which it accomplishes pretty well given the strong danger of triteness. On the one hand the film aims for realism throughout, yet it's constantly challenged in this by that poison to all realism – symbolism. For example, throughout most of the film, heavily-bearded José looks uncannily like Jesus. Sure, that's not going to prejudice the viewer at all.

Still, what becomes of José and Nina's individual lives, and their individual angst, is hardly the stuff of Hollywood.

A thought-provoking film, and therefore probably one better reflected upon for a while.

Official site here.


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