Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bella - A Review

There's been tons of talk lately in the press and Catholic circles about the new film "Bella." It won the Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award as well as the praise of our own Cardinal Rigali. Now with that kind of variety, this film is worth a look!

I saw it yesterday with our Head of School, Fr. Flynn, and 26 of the boys from Malvern Prep. And I loved it. I can't say enough about how refreshing it was to be served a banquet of real, virtuous love from the Big Screen as opposed to the usual dollar menu of vice, compromise, distorted sex and violence. Where other films would go when their lead characters are young, attractive, male and female.... the movie Bella halts. Instead, it opens up the possibility that there exists a deeper love, a purer love, a love that isn't just about jumping in the sack. Wow! Who knew?

And yet the love between Jose and Nina is real, gritty, painfully honest, and shows to what depths the human heart can go when we become truly naked before another person. Where other Hollywood love stories go in one night (often so predictably) Bella in one day and night goes infinitely beyond. This love is not skin deep, but dives into the painful heart of each person, into their fears and their regrets, and by facing those skeletons, the old bones are given new life.

The lead character Jose is the MAN. That's all I have to say. He is, like his name's sake St. Joseph, the guardian and protector of a woman in a very vulnerable place. And he shines, he soars! Even while carrying the burden of his own tragic past. Nina plays the fragile and sometimes angry heart that finds in the face of Pure Love, that her heart can be open to something more.

The scenes have a raw, gritty feel to them, like we're walking through NYC ourselves. The close-cropped shots of onions being cut and tomatoes tossed, of flame and bread and water and dancing feet and digging earth and planting trees all conveyed a sense of joy and a rhythm to life that I think our culture has forgotten exists. The character of Nina felt its beat in her heart after one beautiful evening meal with Jose's family. "Is it always like that?" she asks him as they walk towards the ocean. "So much joy? So much love?" Jose's humble eyes look down, "That's nothing. You should see it when we all get together on holidays."

I'm tempted to stop writing and just say go see the movie. Just go and receive it like a gift, with no idea of its contents. It's a journey into Life, and it's got all the beauty and the pain and the promise that God has growing in this garden we call earth. Ah the movie Bella, like Life.... what a beautiful choice!
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