Too often today we hear that emptiest of phrases: "I’m here for you."  

That is nearly never true … until it is.  And it is in this.

Special and subtle it started with the image of a man’s shoes dancing… there were no explosions or Latino explicatives. 

There are a lot of subtle clues through the film, random images which aren’t random at all, whether they are glimpses of a kite or bearded Franciscans.

I finally got around to watching Bella.   It actually came a couple weeks ago via my Netflix.  I have been staring at it, it staring at me.  I’ve had it in my brief case.  It went to other cities with me.  It now has frequent flier miles.

Today was one of those clearing days.  And so, I cleared and cleared and made supper and then, with nothing super urgent to be cleared, watched the movie.

I went into it knowing very little about it.

Most films today just shove you in the face.  This is smart and emotional, intellective and affective.

Bella tugs you along, through the aisles of stores, frightened, looking into mirrors, putting the keys into an ignition you can’t yet turn.  If your throat doesn’t close when you see what is going to happen… unless something happens… knowing it is going to happen, seeing it happen, and yearning in advance that it be healed, you have no pulse.

You confront the horror of an instant’s mistake.

Along the way there are non-random contrasts of city and not-city, human clocks you can’t see, fear washed away by dirt under the nails, masks and armor coming off, ancient treasures lost and returned, years of life irretrievable but not irredeemable, the dramatic moment of choice when giving up what you have is the only way to get everything back.

There is also a fine presentation of what a family is, can be.  It can be of people who don’t know each other but do, speaking in languages that don’t need to be translated, heart speaking to heart.  And who wouldn’t want to be a member of this family?  They are individuals who are united, strangers who are bonded.  No one has a knife, especially the cooks, the fathers and fathers to be.

And it a great food movie.

Men have to watch this movie.

Our lives can change so suddenly.  Mistakes can break us in eye blinks and the healing can take so very very long. 

This film could have particular importance for someone who hasn’t known or given kindness for a long time.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Having seen “Bella” when it first came out, I bought the DVD and have loaned it to others. The star, Eduardo Versategui, continues to live the part. He appears at pro-life events and prays the rosary with pro-lifers at abortion sites. He has vowed chastity until he finds the woman he will marry. Another movie you might find in Netflix is “Follow the Stars Home.” It was a Hallmark TV movie about a young woman who chooses not to abort a child she knows will be terribly disabled. Her husband leaves. It is not a Catholic movie and there is divorce; a sub-plot is touching as well and very much a story of today. The theme of love with its total sacrifice and perseverence is well worth recommending. The child is marvelously played. I can’t imagine that she is truly so disabled, since happenings occur on cue in the script. I always recommend this along with “Bella.”

  2. mattmcg says:

    There are two things in particular I recollect from that film. First, the fact that abortion isn’t really even mentioned directly. The treatment of that ‘choice’ is as subtle as it is powerful.The second thing is the scene where the principals are walking at night on the beach. She’s describing how hard it would be to have the child. He’s listening, perfectly absorbed, and full of silent empathy. And they sit in the dark, in front of the waves, as she shares her agony. And to either side of them are red and white lanterns, like the blood and water from the wounds of Christ.

    What a wonderful film – a wonderful Catholic film.

  3. What I like about this movie, and even Juno to some extent, is the way they hook you into the “belief.”

    It presents the sanctity of life with an “Aha!” kind of moment, rather than beating you over the head with it!

    The other nice thing about this movie, is that it doesn’t make everything look like wine and roses.

  4. trad catholic mom says:

    It’s a beautiful movie, I cried all 3 times I saw it. My husband cried when he saw it too. Eduardo Verástegui, who plays José, has an inspiring personal story about coming back to Catholicism and he has done pro life PSA’s and refuses roles that conflict with his Catholic faith.

  5. trad catholic mom says:

    oh forgot to add that netflix has the movie on streaming video too.

  6. Rachel Pineda says:

    “There are a lot of subtle clues through the film, random images which aren’t random at all, whether they are glimpses of a kite or bearded Franciscans.”

    I know! I’ve been trying to tell a few people that. *Sigh* Oh well, the movie is very good. We own it and it is worth it. I never thought a former pop star could have so much depth haha. I like the two main actors, very talented. They can even “act” when they are not speaking. Not an easy task to pull off with grace.

  7. Rachel Pineda says:

    By the way, just one more thing, I love how you got this,

    “Too often today we hear that emptiest of phrases: “I’m here for you.”

    That is nearly never true … until it is. And it is in this.”

    This underlying message through the *whole* movie is why I love it.

  8. Cath says:

    I was lucky enough to go to a prescreening of “Bella” in our Archdiocese. Lots of priests and nuns there. And the Archbishop. The producer of the movie gave a talk before we watched which was moving in itself. About how the movie came about and how Eduardo Verástegui at an abortion clinic was instrumental in saving a child from abortion. I loved the family in that movie.

  9. “God appreciates your miracle!”

  10. Girgadis says:

    Father, thanks for reminding me about this movie. I don’t see many movies but this one was played on the bus trip home from D.C. and I really meant to see it again. Jose was a thoroughly decent young man. This was driven home most powerfully for me when I saw how he chose to deal with the “horror of that instant’s mistake” (very well put). I am going to pick up a copy so we can watch it as a family.

  11. Amy MEV says:

    Bella entered my “top ten favorite movies” list the first time I watched it. And it has only gotten better with each additional viewing.

  12. Dr. Eric says:

    Part of the back story on Mr. Verastegui is that he was learning English from a dialect coach who over the course of his training prodded him to come back to the practice of his Catholic Faith. She even asked him if he was a Catholic, why did he continue to offend Our Lord?

    Let this be a reminder that even the most insignificant of us can change the world for the better. The coach, whom no one really knows, was able to be instrumental in the conversion of this actor who has gone on to do great work for the Lord.

  13. dimsum says:

    I watched it this evening. It is trully a beatiful film. I have been trully touched by its message at a time when I need it the most.

  14. Kimberly says:

    I love this movie! And Eduardo Versategui is very easy to watch. Sorry, that was kind of a female thing.

  15. MarieSiobhanGallagher says:

    I took my husband (then boyfriend) to this movie one year ago for his birthday (Oct 29). It was possibly the first night it played in Manhattan, and I had scored some tickets. The show was sold out. It was so uplifting, especially because of the subtlety of it. It never comes out and hits you over the head with a preachy message, which I think is the best way to convert folks. We both really enjoyed it.

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