As I sit at my computer, contemplating how best to describe the film Bella—now available on DVD—the sounds of my husband and two daughters playing hide-and-seek drift up the stairs, finding their way to my ears.
"OK, girls, hide," my husband says. "I’m going to count. One… Two… "
Toddler giggles. And the scamper of four little feet on hardwood floors.
"Three… Four… Five…"
Suddenly, the counting takes me back. Back to the film Bella.
"Six… Seven… Eight… "
Back to one of its most heartbreaking moments.
A moment when the main character Jose’s life changes. Forever.
"Here I come!"
A moment that for him seems the end. The end of his soccer career. The end of his multi-million dollar contract. The end of any semblance of inner peace.
"Ready or not!"
But this moment, as tragic and life-altering as it is, isn’t the defining moment in Jose’s life. Instead, it starts what I believe to be a transformation in him. A transformation that years later results in a man willing to sacrifice his own comfort and freedom to embrace the precious, priceless gift of life. A man of amazing patience.
And in the end, that’s what Bella’s about. Those defining moments in life. Those moments when our lives change forever. Moments when we take the time to step out of ourselves. Away from the convenient. The easy. The comfortable. And extend our hearts and our hands in friendship and love.
Moments that result in a little girl being given the opportunity to dig her toes in the sand. To feel the cool rush of an ocean wave as it nips at her ankles. To know the sound of the name "Daddy" on her tongue. And to meet the mommy who had the courage to make a difficult decision.
Moments that allow a grown woman to remember her past. To grieve her father’s death. To feel sorrow at her mother’s withdrawal. To grapple with her own shortcomings and failures. To determine the fate of another.
Moments that start the healing process in a broken man’s life. Healing as he struggles with the past. Struggles to forgive himself. To move on. Healing as he opens himself up to the possibilities of the future and how he can make a difference in the lives of others.
Without a doubt, Bella—which took home the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and the Crystal Award at the Heartland Film Festival—is a film that aims at the heart, intending to move audiences with its powerful story of love. Love that "goes beyond romance," as the film’s tagline says, and seeks "to elevate the dignity of the human person," as actor and producer Eduardo Verastegui told Crosswalk.com.
This isn’t a typical love story, contrary to the opening line of Roger Ebert’s review in the Chicago-Sun Times last Fall, where he writes that "’Bella’ tells the story of two people who fall in love because of an unborn child." It’s not about two people falling in love in the romantic sense. Rather, it’s the tale of two wounded individuals who find hope and friendship in each other.
It’s a story that frames its pro-life and pro-adoption message so purposefully in love that it’s clear the filmmakers’ intentions weren’t to hit people over the head with an agenda. I love the way Bob Hoose and Steve Isaac of Plugged In Online describe Bella. They write:
Bella is an unusually intelligent, humane film that reminds us how easy it is to impact one person’s life—and perhaps save another’s—simply by being sensitive to hurting people and carving out time to care. It is a tender tale of grace, faith, redemption and the sanctity of life. It doesn’t showcase A-list stars or wield a multi-gazillion dollar budget. Rather, it’s an intimate narrative that will surely fly well beneath the Hollywood blockbuster radar. But it’s a film that does fly directly in the face of Hollywood’s—and society’s—"it’s all about me" credo.
It’s an example of how God allows our own brokenness to be used to offer comfort and support to others who are hurting. How, if we’ll take our eyes off ourselves and our problems, focusing our attention on the needs of others, we may just start changing the world one heart at a time.
And it’s changing the world one heart at a time—not large box office figures or DVD sales—that seems to motivate those behind the scenes of Bella. Verastegui told Plugged In:
What I’d love to see happen with this film is to someday have this 12-year-old knock on my door and say that her mother was going to have an abortion. But she saw this film. That would be my Oscar….
This film is not for the people who already agree that life is personal and has dignity. I want to touch the girls who come from broken families who don’t know anything about all these important issues—and next thing you know they find themselves pregnant and they think it’s fine to just go and have an abortion because that is what they have been taught. I want to reach them and embrace them and love them through the film and then by that they can choose what is best for them, which is to have their baby.
And this love, this desire to make a difference, shines through this film, intricately woven into the writing, the acting, the directing.
Lovely Bella. A film that’s indeed beautiful. Causing viewer after viewer to remain in their seats after the credits have ended, reflecting on the beauty of life, of love, and of friendship.
And, for this viewer, a film that’s made me hold a game of hide-and-seek that much more dear, reminding me that these moments are fleeting.
More toddler giggles … "I found you!"
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