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Directed by Alejandro Monteverde
91 mins Rated PG

Staring Mexican soap opera actor Eduardo Verástegui and highly acclaimed television actor Tammy Blanchard, Bella is an appealing film with a decidedly family-friendly and pro-life focus.

Surprising winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, this is a spiritually literate film exploring two troubled people’s responses to an unplanned pregnancy.

The increasingly honest and restorative conversations between sensitive chef Jose (Verástegui) and the newly pregnant waitress Nina (Blanchard) are sustained in the context of a dynamic and loving Hispanic family.

Filmed in New York in just three weeks by a team of a first-time director, producers and screenwriters, both director Monteverde and actor Verástegui recently made a renewed commitment to their Catholic faith.

For Verastegui, a trip to Rome to meet Pope John Paul II and receive a blessing for the film was an important part of its success.

While Bella is not polemic about the issue of abortion and doesn’t preach at the audience, it does allow Blanchard’s accomplished acting to help the viewer develop an empathetic connection with a single woman facing the termination of her pregnancy.

Writer-producer Leo Severino said the movie was about understanding rather than judgement and his team has succeeded in making a film that will engage both pro-life and pro-choice viewers.

“Our hope is that when people leave our film on any side of an equation they’re going to love more and judge less.”

Whether or not Bella is a box-office success, watching it is a morally uplifting experience and it is a beautiful (‘bella’) film.

Bella is due for release in cinemas on 21 February

Reviewed by Bruce Mullan, editor of Journey