Ever since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
Those words are from the William Cowper song, There is a Fountain. They point us to one of the most powerful qualities of love—it’s redemptive character. It’s Barnabas standing up for Saul when everyone else is still deeply suspicious and resentful of him (Acts 9:26ff). He later does the same thing for John Mark despite the fact that he bailed out during an earlier mission trip (Acts 13:13,15:36ff. It’s Sydney Carton taking Charles Darnay’s place at the guillotine in A Tale of Two Cities. And it’s the theme of a wonderful movie from almost a decade ago called Bella (available for streaming through Netflix).
Jose is the chef at his brother’s restaurant in New York City. He’s in the process of rebuilding his life after a tragedy ends a promising soccer career and results in his imprisonment for four years. Meanwhile Nina, a co-worker, is experiencing her own struggles. She is fired from the restaurant on the same day that she learns she is pregnant. She isn’t married and the father wants nothing to do with her or the baby. Given this as a starting point, you have all of the ingredients for a real downer of a story—but that’s not what happens here.
And yet what follows isn’t the predictable tale of romantic love we’ve grown accustomed to expecting either. Instead, we have the less likely, more inspiring story of redemptive love that leaves us with hope and joy. And it all unfolds in a manner that (on the whole) I didn’t find to be heavy handed but rather required the participation of the viewer in piecing together the narrative with its flash-backs and flash-forwards and in filling in some of the gaps (and the whispers).
After Nina is fired she heads for the Metro to go home. Jose leaves the restaurant and follows her. He catches up to her just as she is going through the turnstile. He questions her about why she has been missing work and she tells him she really has been sick (not hung over as Jose’s brother accused her of being). She then confides to him that she’s pregnant. She’s about to walk away when Jose asks her what she’s going to do. She tells him that she’s going to have to figure that out. He looks at her through the turnstile and asks, “Do you want to talk about it?” She hands her Metro card to him and he joins her.
The rest of the movie is about the day they spend together. They don’t fall in love, solve all of their problems, or anything like that. Instant gratification fans will be disappointed. What does happen is they have some honest exchanges about the hard realities in their lives. They learn a lot about each other and themselves. And throughout it all is a steady grace and compassion that ripples through their time together.
So where does all of this lead? You’ll have to watch the movie if you want to find out. But I can tell you that the movie reminds us that small things—one day, one conversation, even one question can be the catalyst for transformation.