Soul Review: Finding Your Spark

Pixar is well known for making films that tug at your heartstrings, and Soul is no different. It represents everything audiences love the studio for: heart, humour, beauty and a story that stays with you. It follows Joe Gardner, a man in love with jazz; it’s at the centre of his life and he believes he is nothing without it. Just as Joe gets his chance to make it big, he dies, but he has more to live for, and struggling to escape his journey to The Great Beyond leads him to meet 22, a sardonic soul who stubbornly refuses to inhabit a body.

The film then follows the two of them through New York City, and it is a faithful recreation of its people. Soul is a celebration of life and all it has to offer, and although the story feels a bit haphazard at points, its focus on family, community, friendship and diversity are wonderfully executed. Soul is also, notably, the first of Pixar’s movies to feature a Black protagonist, a huge step forward regarding Disney and Pixar’s oft-criticised representation issues.

While Soul tackles society’s capitalistic ideals of individual success and asks big questions like “what is one’s purpose in life?”, this film really makes its mark with its beautiful, simplistic scenes. Scenes where 22 watches the sunlight filter through the trees while the leaves fall, or enjoys the music of a busker at the subway station, are the warm and life-affirming moments where Pixar has always thrived.

You may not finish the movie knowing the answer to some of life’s biggest questions, but Soul’s main message is to enjoy life. We don’t need to be the best, or the most famous. As 22 learns, life is pretty great simply because we get to live it. 

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Nerisse Appleby

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September 2021
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