By Julius De La Rama, Third Year, Film & Television
Pete Docter returns five years after Inside Out (2015) – a beautiful, cathartic odyssey through the mind of an eleven-year-old – with what I believe is Pixar’s best film in over a decade.
As of late, the animation studio has been grappling with much bigger questions concerning our every day and aspects of our lives that are fundamentally unknowable. Soul (2020) swings big and attempts to deconstruct the meaning of life – the why, the actual reason we choose to get up in the morning – in the only way Pixar knows how.
After an untimely accident causes his soul to be separated from his body, music teacher Joe Gardner (brilliantly voiced by Jamie Foxx) finds himself fighting to get back to his body with the help of another soul named 22 (voiced by Tina Fey).
With jaw-dropping 3D (and 2D!) animation that travels in-between a sprawling, organic New York City and two new spaces the film calls the Great Before and the Great Beyond, we are presented with three playgrounds of limitless inventiveness that is sure to reward viewers on repeat watches. Even if you’re not a fan of jazz, I’m sure the film will convert you.
Every jazz sequence is hypnotising, bursting with creativity and energy.
Every scene in the Great Before is wonderfully designed and often very funny thanks to some hilarious voice work from Richard Ayoade, Graham Norton and Rachel House. In fear of even minor spoilers, I will refrain from saying anything else because the film deserves fresh eyes and ears.
Soul also boasts Pixar’s best music since Ratatouille (2007), with a gorgeous jazz score composed by Jon Baptiste that breathes life and a feeling that is almost tangible into the bustle of New York City, and an entrancing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that occupies that Great Before / Beyond that feels ethereal and so different to anything in mainstream animation.
This is why Soul stands out from its contemporaries. The film feels similar but couldn’t be more distinct. It is extremely refreshing to see a story that stars a middle-aged black man that is not confined by his race, but rather existing with goals and aspirations like everyone else. The film takes a topic as serious as mortality and injects it with hope, beauty and happiness.
At the end of the day, I believe that we are afforded very few chances of authentic, sincere joy in our lifetimes, and that we are especially given very little opportunity to understand just how important those moments of joy truly are.
Soul cherishes the everyday, it encourages introspection, and in this debilitating time that is the pandemic, I am so very grateful a film like this exists.
I am so excited for the world to be normal again, but while we wait, let Soul transport you to better times.
Have you seen Soul yet? let us know what you think!