Sarah Salter 

Sarah Salter is a graduate of Methodist College with a BA in English. An employee of the NC Church Education Ministries of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), her work has appeared in Methodist College’s Tapestry magazine and Evangel, the monthly magazine of the IPHC. She is a member of ACFW and is currently working on her first novel. Sarah travels regularly with short term medical mission teams, but makes her home in Central NC with her dog, Sadie. Visit her website at


I love movies, but because I’m on a budget, I have to be picky about my viewing habits. I watch movie trailers, but unless it really grabs me, I won’t invest my money in going to the theater. The litmus test is this: If the preview makes me cry, I’ll find the money to go. Otherwise, I’ll wait for the movie to come on television in that “compressed for time and space” format. As soon as I saw the preview for Bella, I knew that I had to see it. I have seen it five times, and I have no doubt that I’ll see it at least five more.

Bella was written by Alejandro Monteverde as the first project for his new production company, Metanoia Films, with his business partners, Eduardo Verástegui and Leo Severino. As much as Bella was a business venture, it became more an act of love. It was something they felt deeply compelled to create; a story they felt “must” be told.

Bella is the story of Jose (Eduardo Verástegui) and Nina (Tammy Blanchard)—two people who are barely holding on to hope in the real world. Jose was a superstar athlete with a $2.2 million contract. In one careless moment, through one reckless act, his dream ended and was replaced with a living nightmare of guilt and regret. Hiding from the world, he cloisters himself into the kitchen as the head chef at his brother’s restaurant. His eyes reveal more pain than any human heart should ever have to hold. Nina is a waitress, merely trying to survive the harsh realities of life in the city. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she realizes that she’s lost and alone, facing the hardest decision of her life.

Jose and Nina work together at El Callejon, a restaurant owned by Jose’s brother, Manny. Nina has worked there for four years, but when she’s late one too many times, Manny fires her. When she admits to Jose than she was late because she’s pregnant, Jose surprises everyone by walking off the job. He opts instead to be the friend that Nina desperately needs as she struggles to decide what to do with her future. Throughout the course of one day, Jose and Nina search for the answers. In the process, they learn not only about each other, but also about life and death and love and healing.

This movie has three major strengths: characters the audience sincerely cares about, strong visual images, and phenomenal acting talent. Although it deals with complex and serious topics, it is a rich, vibrant story. It displays all of the best qualities of people: compassion, laughter, love, and understanding. It also showcases all of the most special characteristics of Latino culture: determination, family love and loyalty, and vivacity. Alejandro Monteverde uses bright colors and strong images and symbols to enhance the texture and meaning. All of the actors in this movie are top-notch actors. Verástegui and Blanchard give astonishingly realistic performances. All of these elements keep this from being the sad, tragic movie that it might have been and turn it into a movie that emanates and celebrates life.

When I was offered a copy of the novelization of Bella, I jumped at it. I knew that because it was a novelization, it probably wouldn’t stray too far from the original screenplay. But because I am a lover of the written word, I wanted to see how an author would translate the depth of emotion and imagery into a novel.

The novelization, written by Lisa Samson, proved to be a skillful adaptation of the movie. Samson took the heart of the movie and fleshed it out in a way that held true to the theme of the

movie and to the characters. I had been somewhat concerned that a novelist wouldn’t be able to capture the strengths of the movie and adapt them to the page, but I was pleased with how Samson achieved this. In fact, the main strength of the book was the way Samson brought all of the strongest elements of the movie into a sharper focus. One passage that especially caught my attention was the scene when Jose first decided to reach out to Nina:

Jose saw people like him and Nina on the street all the time, pain stitching
them all together with its scarlet thread, arm to arm, hip to hip.

In this passage, Samson is painting for us in the written word exactly the picture that Monteverde translated to the screen: In the midst of our pain, we can draw together and help heal each other. In an interview with The Austin Chronicle, Alejandro Monteverde explained the essence of Bella: “Pain is a language. When you share with another human being, it can really bring you closer together. Each person’s pain becomes each person’s medicine. It becomes each other’s redemption.”

Samson also expresses this meaning in another passage that I really loved from a scene in which Jose is talking to Nina about her future.

Jose reached out and settled his bandaged hand on Nina’s forearm. The sight of it . . . undid her. This wounded soul reaching out, his own pain somehow a comfort to her . . . and she cried. For the first time since those blue lines marred the snowy surface of the test stick, the fear of life, the giving of it, the taking of it, the living of it, overwhelmed her completely.

If I had to choose between the movie and the novelization, I believe that in this rare case, I would choose the movie. As talented and creative as the novelization is, the excellence of the acting and the strength of the visual imagery trump the book. The movie and the book live up to their name: Bella (beautiful). Bella is a beautiful story that is a pleasure both to see and to read.