After watching the award-winning film Bella I have mixed feelings about it. Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? My answer would be a qualified yes. I like the movie but not the manner it is being presented, or rather misrepresented, by the media campaign surrounding it.

I prefer storylines that tell us what it is we're signing up for. Disney's "Enchanted is a film just as mushy, gushy, and lovey-dovey as Bella is. The difference is Enchanted asks its question from the beginning: "can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?" It then proceeds to show that it can. There is hope. Individuals can make a difference.

Even though we're told Bella is "a love story that goes beyond romance," Bella is, above all, a movie "about a cause that matters." I would have preferred knowing beforehand that the cause was abortion. Is abortion such a divisive force that its part in the film needed to be kept under wraps in the advertising copy? It is true that Bella deals with the abortion issue. It's also true it goes beyond the rhetoric and into the humanity surrounding it, both that of the unborn baby and that of those close to its mother. The movie is a good vehicle for delivering truth in a caring and sensitive manner and deserves to employ truth in advertising in its media campaign.

Bella, directed by Alejandro Monteverde, won the People’s Choice Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, considered to be "the most influential film festival in the world." Even though it deals with a particularly controversial issue in America today, it also deals with mistakes we make that can haunt us for the rest of our lives. It's about how things that happen can kill the passion in us, the passion for living, for engaging life in all its fullness.

Bella is about family and friendship. It's about options and consequences surrounding decision-making. It's about hope and healing. It's a movie about everyday heroes and the ability they have to make humanity hopeful, beautiful and uplifting.

When you Google "Bella the movie" you'll find most folks, but not all, raving about it. Stephen Holden, of the NY Times, gave it a scathing review,

It is not hard to see why Bella, a saccharine trifle directed by Alejandro Monteverde, won the People’s Choice Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. This is a movie that wears its bleeding heart on its sleeve and loves its characters to
distraction. Nothing—not even significant plot glitches and inconsistencies—is allowed to get in the way of its bear-hugging embrace of sweetness and light. [Stephen Holden/NY Times].

A film uses its artistic components to evoke a particular emotional response from audiences. Plot glitches and inconsistencies do make it hard for viewers to suspend disbelief and embrace the storyline. I'm not sure which plot glitch or inconsistency Holden is referring to. For me the movie's storyline worked. It was straight forward.

In his review, Holden brings out a point worth noting, "If Bella...is a mediocre cup of mush, the response to it suggests how desperate some people are for an urban fairy tale with a happy ending, no matter how ludicrous." This is good news for writers to create other such stories. I love to read books or watch movies with that type of ending. Based on the endorsements, awards, and reviews Bella is receiving, I'm not the only one who feels this way.

In addition to its #1 message on the topic of abortion, that there are options one can take besides aborting a human being, the other themes woven throughout the storyline are what would make this a movie worth watching and recommending. You won't be disappointed if you go prepared to see a slow and melodious story rich in values, hope and love. Know beforehand that it'll ask you to think about abortion and much more. Bella will ask you to consider what is true and beautiful and worth doing today in order to make this a better world for us all. Watch Bella and tell me what you think by posting your comments to my blog.


  1. Anonymous6/22/2008

    My wife and I saw the film last night. We found the film's plot utterly unbelievable. I felt snookered into seeing the film by a lot of promotional hype on the DVD box. What we saw was a saccharine propaganda vehicle. Don't get me wrong, I am not a big pro-abortion type, but films should be held to a high artistic standard. This film is a poorly directed and manipulative vehicle. If the characters had been three dimensional we might have gotten into it. The biggest message of the film: DO NOT CLOSE YOUR EYES AND COUNT WHILE YOUR TWO YEAR OLD FINDS A PLACE TO HIDE IN AN URBAN NEIGHBORHOOD. As a balance to this film I would recommend the highly acclaimed Romainian film, "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days". A thoughtful and utterly realistic look at an illegal abortion.

  2. I pretty much have to agree with much of what you mention in your review of the movie. That's why rather than an enthusiastic endorsement I gave it a qualified one. It carries a sweet message, even though it does deliver it in a bit of what you call "a saccharine propaganda vehicle." The important thing is for folks to know what they're getting into before they watch it...so they don't end up feeling "snookered into seeing it" as you felt. :-)

  3. Anonymous7/11/2008

    I can't say I was overwhelmed by how the movie was made/edited, but I thought it was refreshing to actually see a movie where the issue of abortion is addressed, and where the pro-life message wasn't mocked, as it usually is in the form of some joke or some character who is a whacko nutjob. I think the abortion aspect was not promoted because people don't really want to deal with the issue of abortion. If it had been promoted I think it would have scared a lot of people away. Besides, a lot of movies build their strength around surprise; that's what makes a movie like The Sixth Sense and others so effective. In the end, I think people don't mind being "snookered" by fantasy plots, but the very real and uncomfortable issue of abortion hits a little too close to home.


  4. I have to agree with your first sentence. I also wasn't at all overwhelmed by the acting/editing. And though it was refreshing to see that the subject of abortion was taken seriously rather than mocked, the delivery of this message could have been pumped up a notch or two.

    I agree that the element of surprise, when well implemented, as it was exquisitely done in The Sixth Sense, is tremendously effective. Did you think it was well implemented in BELLA?

  5. Anonymous1/27/2009

    It is January 27, 2009, but I recently did a web search to see if the number "4" had any significance in the movie. It seemed to pop up a lot. Then I discovered your review and thought I would post this. So first, did you also notice the number "4" coming up again and again or was it just me? If so, what is the significance? Also, I just wanted to comment that I had the same complaint about "Million Dollar Baby" in that it genuinely hid its main message also which was pro-euthenasia. I personally am indifferent on the euthenasia issue, but I just didn't like the hiding of it. Thank you.

  6. In reply to Anonymous post: No, I didn't notice the number "4" coming up in the movie so I can't speak to whether it's significant or not. Perhaps others who read your post might want to comment on that.

    Regarding your note about "Million Dollar Baby" I didn't see that movie but also would have been upset if they'd tried to push a message like that on me. Why can't they just come out and say what the movies are about and then folks know what they're getting into???

    Now, if you want to go see a GREAT movie, go see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. It's raw in its portrayal of slum living in the country of India. It's also raw in its portrayal of the power of love. I just finished blogging about it. :-)

  7. Anonymous2/15/2009

    4 of us just saw this movie (suckered like the rest by the box hype of "best movie") and had a hard time getting past the notion that he went to jail for hitting a child who ran out into the street from between parked cars. Just not possible. There's your 1st serious "plot glitch"! Was he speeding? Poor plot development. Editing stunk. All was flash backs from present except for 1 flash forward to abortion clinic where you determine absolutely nothing.

  8. Thanks for your anonymous comment of 2/15/09. Good point you make about the improbability of someone going to jail for hitting a kid who comes running into the street out of nowhere. All the other points you made also make sense. So, then, why did the film, in your own words, suckered so many into watching it and praising it?

  9. Anonymous6/24/2010

    Bella became my favorite movie when I saw it at the theater. When the DVD was released, I bought 2 copies (one to lend and one to cover the risk of not getting back a movie lent out!). It remains my favorite movie today.
    There was a grassroots email campaign to get people to the theater. While there was little I could find about the movie at that time to attract me to see it, my wife and I went anyway. We came out in awe, asking each other, "Did we just see what we thought we saw?"
    I don't understand why the pro-life message was absent from early promotion, choosing instead to hold up Latino culture, food, etc. Of course now, years later, it is front and center in Bella material.
    Bella is beautifully filmed and directed. However, its style is different from what we see in most movies. This should not be mistaken for poor cinematography or editing. The camera work and editing help convey the emotion of the movie.
    We do warn people to whom we lend a copy that the film assumes intelligence on the part of the viewer. It is not linear in its storytelling, with flashbacks and time shifting not announced. Bella requires you figure it out as the story unfolds, which did have me going "Huh?" a few times at the first viewing. In the theater this is easier, with home viewing you cannot go get a snack and expect to keep up with the film.
    As to some comments about Jose going to jail for vehicular manslaughter, it is clear he was negligent when driving. And is the movie propaganda? If using all the means at their disposal to tell a story in a compelling way is propaganda, then yes I suppose you could say so. Should it say clearly on the package that this is a pro-life movie? Hmmm… I don’t know… should Avatar have a disclaimer regarding its political and social messages?
    If you have not seen Bella, do find a copy and watch. If you’re pro-life you will find it affirming. If you’re pro “choice”, it may give you something to think about. Either way, you’ll see a gem of a film.

  10. Thanks, Anonymous, for your thoughtful post. You give us a good overview of why this is a movie worth watching, though I still would like folks to know what they're getting into before they do watch it. In my opinion Bella is, above all, a movie against abortion. Nothing wrong with a movie taking that stand. No need to hide it under the other stuff you mention, the Latino culture, etc.

    The best stories, the ones we tend to remember, do carry a message. The balance between storytelling and message is a fine one. Tip your movie script or book one way or the other and it comes out unbalanced. Bella did walk the line between storytelling and message beautifully. The pro-life message of the film does fit within the storyline presented in the movie. So why deceive folks and trick them into watching it by offering a trailer that doesn't represent what the movie is really about? That's my main complain about this movie.

    You're right when you say that Avatar also carried a strong political and social message. The difference between Avatar and Bella is that the Avatar trailer does tell you what you're in for. I knew I was going to be spoon-fed the environmentalist point of view in Avatar and I also knew it was going to be pretty much a one-sided view. So I knew what I was getting into when I went to see Avatar. Not so with Bella, and therein lies my disappointment. :-)

  11. Hi, I never heard of Bella until I went to a bookstore and saw it for sale. I was drawn to it, and I have to say I am so glad I purchased it. I just finished watching it, and though it was slow and it shifted at times taking you to the future and past forcing you to think about what was going on, as it peiced together you saw what each character was battling. The cool thing was there was redemption on the other side for BOTH of them. And, it was the sweetest kind with a beautiful reward that could have been missed.

    You saw this guy dealing with incredible grief, guilt and pain and for a while you didn't know what secret he was carrying. It kept you in suspense. It was a mystery you waited to find out. He was battling the guilt for taking an innocent life that was a total accident. And one day, it was if God Himself drew his attention the moment that would change his life forever. He became someone's friend who was also dealing with 'her' battle, and in the end he was now able to not only lift 'her' burden, but save a life, and be a part of a restoration not only for himself but for the young mother. You saw him being broken over and over as he suffered the memory of his past. The mother of the child he had accidently killed would not forgive him. It grieved him terribly. He wanted to restore her, understood her pain; he grieved for her.

    I see God in this story. I see s supernatural intervention.

    You saw family loving each other, supporting each other, and celebrating who they were. And, it was unique. You experienced so many emotions "with" them. You felt you were a part of them. At least you wanted to be.

    Then you see how redemption is on the other side of so much pain. In return for helping another's burden be lifted, the one thing he could never lift himself was lifted. When he offered to save a life the gift of life was restored back to him; passion for life was his again. The hope he struggled to find was restored again.

    It shows us all that our times of tragedies can be opportunities to not only transform our lives but impact others. What we go through doesn't have to be in vain. It drives us deeper to think about everything and to not let go until that opportunity arises to turn what almost destroyed us into something powerfully good.

    I don't think this movie was aimed to simply promote pro-life. I am not sure that was the actual purpose. It was about life being given to several people not just an unborn child. The unborn child was the mystery and the missing peice to the puzzle that could have been blindly missed.

    You understood the emotions and burden of each person. It was very real to the questions and thoughts we deal with as humans. Metaphorically, life inside a mother is a mystery, so to have this baby in the picture as a solution instead of a problem was thoughtful. The movie was thorough and deep. It was very artistic. The message was solid all the way through down to the smallest detail.

    I believe it was about so much more. I didn't even view the movie to be about a convtroversial topic, but about the struggles of how quickly our lives can change in an instant; sometimes things we cannot control. What are we going to do with it? How do we respond to it; deal with it? Is there hope on the other side? Can we be freed of the guilt of a mistake we cannot change?

    It is a story about healing and redemption. It is about seeing through a situation and why it may be standing in front of you. It is about all the above.
    It was beautiful to see how a miracle can be standing right in front of you if you happen to take time to notice. And if you are fortunate, you will get to be a part of it.

    "Bella" was untypical, stirring, and challenging causing us to reflect onto our own lives overall no matter what the situation is!

  12. Violet5/11/2012

    Honestly, I prefer older movies - 1930´s to 1960´s - because of photography and scripts. Bella... well, everything I have read about this movie seems to confirm my opinion.