I think that one of the main complaints about the movie is that it IS manipulative, but is it bad to make people feel good after seeing a film? Is it bad for manipulating an audience 's emotions so that they feel hope in a relentlessly cynical world? Is it bad to manipulate an audince into feeling real sympathy for the main characters?
Another objection to "Bella" is that it is a "message" movie, because the message runs counter to the accepted view of society in general. Without giving away the plot, it involves a young, single woman's dilemma in deciding how to "handle" her unexpected pregnancy.
Actor Tammy Blanchard serves up a flinty performance, as real as the New York landscape we see in the movie, playing the pregnant, unemployed waitress, Nina. Although she bears a slight resemblance to a young Judy Garland, she exhibits more of the hard shell New Yorker than Garland was capable of.
Opposite Nina is Jose (Eduardo Verástegui...WHO?), a former Mexican soccer star who has suffered an undisclosed tragedy, revealed as the plot unfolds, and finds himself working as a chef in his older brother's upscale Mexican bistro. Jose is a sensitive soul who has hidden his emotions because they are too painful to dwell on, but slowly begins to emerge as her lends a willing ear to Nina and offers a shoulder to lean on as the movie progresses.
Also, I need to mention that Jose's family life is not the same as your usual inner city, alcohol soaked, drug infested tragedies that movies usually portray. No, his parents are still together, his youngest brother still lives at home, a very NICE home by the way, and they still eat their meals together, AFTER they say grace. And most importantly, the LOVE one another! WOW! How weird is THAT?
It IS true that the plot moves slowly and that there is no action to speak of, but Nina's decision, and the resulting plot resolution require a slower approach. Both the Grouchmate and I completely enjoyed this film. No cursing, no sex, and solid family values without seeming to be preachy. What more could you ask for?