Starring Eduardo Verastegui and Tammy Blanchard. Directed by Alejandro Gomez Monteverde

Running Time: 91 mins
Rated: Rated PG (mild themes).

The popularity of Bella is something of a fairytale in itself. Made on a small budget by an aspiring Mexican writer-director in Los Angeles, it took the prize for the People's Award at the 2006 Toronto Festival, beating many big name films. After doing some of the rounds of festivals, it eventually received an American commercial release in October 2007.

The film is very appealing with its romantic overtones but with its underlying sadness.

Popular singer and actor, Eduardo Verastegui, plays a young man whose life went wrong but who was able to overcome what had happened to him and be positive in someone else's life. The film opens and closes with his character, Jose, sitting on a beach. He watches people pass by, especially the children. As his memory goes back, he remembers the time of promise when he was going to be a star footballer but a car accident changes everything in a flash and destroys his hopes as well as the lives of others.

His memory also goes back to a significant day when he rescued the waitress who is sacked by his brother from the restaurant where he works as the chef. She has her moods and a temper - which is not helped by her discovery that she is pregnant. Jose takes the day off and they - and we - share some momentous events during that day: whether the waitress will have the child, a visit to Jose's family (and meeting his entertainingly lively and undiplomatic brother), words of wisdom from both father and mother, the reality of support from Jose.

And then, we are back at the beach, wondering what happened to the waitress, Jose, what about the child -because it is four years later.

Verastegui has great charm and presence. Tammy Blanchard is very good and convincing as Nina, the waitress. And the film, made by a young man in his late 20s, is a blend of realism and sadness, joy and redemption, plenty of sentiment, but great hope.

Hopscotch Out February 21

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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