American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
'Bella" tells the story of two people who fall in love because of an unborn child. Winner of the People's Choice Award at Toronto 2006, it is a heart-tugger with the confidence not to tug too hard. It stars an actor named Eduardo Verastegui, who I would describe as the next Antonio Banderas if I ever wrote cliches like that, which I do not. Tall, handsome, bearded, he plays Jose, the chef of his brother's Mexican restaurant in New York, until his life changes one day when his brother fires a waitress named Nina (Tammy Blanchard) for being late.
Jose and Nina are not a couple. All the same, he walks out of the kitchen, chases her into the subway, apologizes that his brother humiliated her in front of the staff, and finds out she was late because she is pregnant.
Now what kind of a reason is that for being late? If I were in the habit of criticizing other critics, which I am not, I would quote Robert Koehler of Variety, who writes: "Nina, however, could easily have been to work on time, since her delay was due to her buying and using a home pregnancy test -- something she rationally would have done after her shift was over." Uh-huh. And if Mr. Koehler feared he was pregnant, which would he do first? Buy and use a home pregnancy test, or review "Bella"? I don't trust a review written by some guy who's wondering if he's pregnant.
Jose and Nina walk and talk, have lunch, share memories, and go to a restaurant where the owner, a friend of Jose's, offers to hire them both. Along the way, Jose tries to persuade her to have the child. He is motivated by reasons that are fully explained in early premonitions and later flashbacks, which I will not reveal. Perhaps the clincher on his argument is provided by a visit to his mother and father (Angelica Aragon and Jaime Tirelli), whose warmth is a contrast to Nina's own wretched past.