A young woman, Nina, whose course in life is derailed by an unexpected discovery. A young man, Jose, who has buried himself in his work, unable to come to terms with the terrible secret in his past. Hiding his classic good looks behind a Joaquim Phoenix style beard, he's also hiding from emotional contact, but his protective instincts are aroused when Nina is sacked by his brother, Manny, from the restaurant where they work. It's the beginning of a journey that could lead to redemption and the discovery of joy in the midst of strife.

It's a classic story, simple yet often effective. The trouble is that its writers seems to have recognised this and, in places, it feels as if they're stretching filler dialogue to the limit, with lines like "That was just a typical New York moment" thrown in as if to justify unwieldy scenes.

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The exposition is heavy throughout and much of the character development feels awkward, justified only by that 'based on a true story' tag. Fortunately, the leads have charm, especially Eduardo Verastegui as Jose, and the subplots are stronger than the central story, providing much needed character and colour. Scenes with Jose's large family manage to combine playfulness and realism well. Those involving the beleaguered Manny, sympathetic despite being positioned as the bad guy, are particularly affecting.

Bella's purported aim is to demonstrate how a day can be turned around by an act of kindness, misery transforming into hope. It's largely successful at this, and avoids the excesses of sentiment one might expect, but beyond that there is not a great deal of depth to it. If you're looking for something gently romantic which is as much about friendship as sex or destiny, you might well appreciate its warmth; and when it briefly grows darker, it carries it well. It's building up to one of those big, life-changing endings that, this once, feels justified.

Not terribly memorable, but a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, Bella is all about the moment.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2010
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Bella packshot
A waitress facing a crisis in her personal and work life makes an unexpected discovery about the chef who takes her side.
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Director: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde

Writer: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, Patrick Million

Starring: Eduardo Verástegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manny Perez

Year: 2006

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US, Mexico


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