Life is beautiful.
The movie Bella, a low-budget international film which debuted over a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival, was recommended to me through several pro-life groups around the Diocese of Joliet, where I work.
Intially recommended to me as an anti-abortion movie, Bella turned out to be so much more than that.
In a nutshell, Bella is a story that takes place over twenty-four hours - it is the journey of Jose,(Eduardo Verástegui), a restaurant chef and former soccer star living in grief, guilt, and self-loathing; Nina (Tammy Blanchard), a just-fired waitress who finds out that she's pregnant that morning; and Manny (Manny Perze), the restaurant owner and Jose's brother.
Jose, Nina, and Manny are stuck in their own lives, afraid to connect with the outside world. Manny is lost in his business, Nina is lost in her confusion, and Jose is lost in his past.
Over the course of the 90 minutes of this film, Jose and Nina leave the restaurant and help each other out of their fears, while Manny learns the lessons of isolation the hard way when his best chef and his best waitress quit on the busiest day.
Jose draws Nina out of her dispair and challenges her to make the right choice for her child. Nina gives Jose new life after living in horrible guilt over an involuntary manslaughter several years back. Jose and his family help Manny remember to see people as more than workers in his restaurant.
This is a film about relationships and opening up.
This is a film about overcoming our past and facing our future.
This is a film about the beauty of life - all of life.
Earlier in his life, Jose accidentally took another life in a tragic car accident. Manny drives the life out of people through his actions and negativity. And Nina has the choice to bring new life into the world through an unexpected pregnancy. And through it all, through the building of new relationships, the dignity of life is re-established for these characters.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, past Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, spoke often of the "seamless garment" of life - that we ought to concern ourselves with the preservation and love of all life - from unborn children to the homeless, depressed, and sick, from the criminal on death row to the elderly and fragile. Bernardin taught that our passion for defending life should be seamless, that it shouldn't just be for one issue, but every single aspect of the human experience.
On this earth, we are called to care for ourselves, for each other, and for each other's lives. Just because we cannot see and interact with an unborn child does not mean we should not take care of it. Just because we aren't living near an Iraqi insurrgent does not mean we have the right to kill them in war. Just because we have authority over other people does not mean we can strip them of their dignity. Just because we hate the crimes committed by a murderer does not mean we should become killers ourselves and support their capital punishment.
In Bella, Nina was called to care for Jose. Jose was called to care for Nina and her unborn child. Nina, Jose, and their family were called to care for Manny. And Manny was called to care for each and every one of them, too.
Each of us is called to care for all of life, even those we don't know and even those we don't like.
When we see our lives with the purpose of caring for all life around us, when this "seamless garment" ethic becomes ingrained in our souls, we won't have to worry about abortion, war, capital punishment, poverty, disgrace, rape, or hatred and prejudice.
Life is beautiful.... bella. All life, everyone, everywhere, everytime.