“A Love Story that goes beyond Romance.”
That was one of the taglines for the surprise hit independent film of 2006. Bella, however, is not really a Pro-Life movie. It’s not a movie that argues the Pro-Life cause through arguments between its characters. Rather, it saturates the viewer with depictions of life, showing the beauty that can be found in living, loving, and learning, but especially in the closeness of the family. It is all about how one day, one instant, changes one’s life forever. There are choices, plenty of them, but what are the right ones?
The movie tells the story of a former soccer star, Jose (Eduardo Verastegui) and a waitress, Nina (Tammy Blanchard) who work for Jose’s brother’s restaurant. Nina is broken, fired from the job at the restaurant, and pregnant. Jose goes after her, and the two travel through New York City, arriving eventually at Jose’s family, and there both of them are reminded what it means to live. The family is not tearing each other apart, is not seeking to destroy itself, is patient, is kind, and is indeed love. It is this encounter that reminds Jose of his family, and an encounter that forces Nina to face her life, and she turns and embraces it.
A great story, a beautiful depiction of families, particularly Latino families (I don’t know about you, but all the Latino families I have met resemble the family in Bella more than a broken street family of some other movie), but what does that have to do with the Pro-Life movement? There is a pregnant unwed mother in it, but isn’t it a stretch to link that plot point and the family eating dinner together? After all Ibid, you did say this wasn’t really a Pro-Life movie.
Point taken, fair reader. However, remember that I was saying the movie is not a Pro-Life movie because it doesn’t have characters arguing the two sides of the debate. It is a pro-life movie in the sense that the movie has the story of life perpetually in the background. It is Pro-Life in the sense that life, not just the life of the unborn but life of the living, is more important than any selfish human goals. Death is a tragedy.
It is interesting to note that Jose’s attempts to turn Nina away from having an abortion are not through moral persuasions or rational arguments. The movie is not about arguments; it is about touching people through example. Disturbingly, Nina seems to know that the child inside of her is a real life. In fact, her reason for an abortion is more to keep the unborn child from suffering in her own terrible world (New York City is not a forgiving place for single mothers). Jose suggests adoption, but Nina rejects it, suggesting that abandoning the child in that way would be worse than having the abortion. It is only later in the movie that she realizes why Jose is so supportive of adoptions. This discussion of abortions and adoptions occurs on the train out of the city, a sort of exodus away from the trap that is the city, into the suburbs where there is love and family. It seems that it is a sort of confession, a sort of necessary first step in a direction of honesty for Nina.
This turn towards honesty is one that every person in today’s world, whether they are a single pregnant mom or a married man or a priest or a Satanist (although Satanists are not necessarily people I would condone in any way), desperately needs. It is purgation, a sort of T. S. Eliot “Ash Wednesday” conversion from no hope (“Because I do not hope to turn again”) to an almost reluctant realization that there is no other way (“Although I do not hope to turn again”). This honesty is the only way to live, and only when faced with the really real world can we appreciate what we have and what we’ve lost. It is a message for not only the Pro-Choice armies, but the legions of the Pro-Lifers and the rest of the world as well.