Roadside Attractions

A would-be heartwarming drama that also subtly extends a pro-life message, "Bella" is a modest indie. While Alejandro Gomez Monteverde's film has its heart in the right place, its effectiveness is ultimately hampered by its awkward and maudlin execution.

The simple story line concerns the interactions between two characters: Nina (Tammy Blanchard), a young, single waitress who has just learned that she's pregnant, and Jose (Eduardo Verastegui, "Chasing Papi"), the strangely mournful chef at the Mexican restaurant where she works.

When the flustered Nina shows up late after learning of her pregnancy, she's fired by her annoyed boss. She spends the rest of the day contemplating whether to have an abortion, accompanied by the sympathetic, hooky-playing Jose.

Not much happens in the course of the film, save for the pair enjoying a home-cooked meal at Jose's parents' house in which some life lessons are dispensed along with the authentic Mexican food.

While the lead characters indeed are sympathetic, their internal travails are rendered in such a maudlin fashion that the overly talky proceedings verge on unintentional humor. By the time "Bella" reaches its Hallmark Card-style conclusion, set of course on a beautiful stretch of beach, one is far too aware of the filmmaker's manipulations.