Review: Soul teaches how to appreciate life

Soul, released Dec. 25, provides a creative glimpse into the beauty of life.

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Photo Disney +

One of the posters for Soul, showing both Joe Gardner’s body and his soul.

Amelia Foster, Print Managing Editor

Pixar’s Soul is an ambitious project about a Jazz musician named Joe Gardner who has to rediscover what it means to have a soul after nearly losing his life. Through guiding a stubborn unborn soul named 22 around Earth, Joe learns to be grateful for life and all its simplicities, no matter which way the wind blows.

The plot as described above is a little heavy, dealing with themes of inner purpose and identity, but Soul navigates them with a light hand. The film is half-hijinks, half-earnest display of emotions, balancing the two on a knife’s edge so that no one moment is overwhelming, and they settle equally over the movie.

Typically, I prefer 2D animation over CGI because of the increased suspension of reality, but Soul is the exception. The photorealistic style enhanced the movie, making it feel like I was looking through Joe’s eyes, feeling the beauty of life. One of the most touching scenes of the movie was just a shot of a leaf drifting from a tree, sunlight hitting it and turning it golden.

On the flip side, Soul wasn’t afraid to get creative with its art style when needed. When not on Earth, the souls were shown as amorphous blue blobs, but the stars of the show were the celestial beings they interacted with. Enough of them was shown to make an impression, but enough was left out for them to feel outside the realm of the world as we know it.

One can’t talk about Soul without including its creative use of music. The main character is a Jazz musician, and that passion is clear throughout the movie. Chase scenes were set to a wild score, while more emotional moments were set to Joe playing piano by himself, showing his attachment to the scenes more than if the music were a traditional score.

Despite my praise, know that the movie is far from perfect. Disney has a history of making movies and using them as diversity, and then turning the main character into an animal or, in the case of Soul, an amorphous blob, leaving very little screen time left for actual representation. I would have preferred to see more of Joe living his life, not him orbiting just outside of it.

It’s possible that the film was just my exact niche, as I’m a strong believer that the only purpose you have in life is one that you make, but I’d like to believe that Soul can spread that message to those who don’t already think it. It’s not a timely movie but a timeless one; it’s easy to get caught up in the future and life’s purpose and ignore the beauty right in front of your face. Soul built up tension excellently, so that any theorized ending seemed as equally likely to happen as the others, until the exact moment the film ended. In a way it paralleled life itself; you don’t know what is going to happen or where you’re going to end up, so Soul just wants you to enjoy the ride.