Soul (2020)

One of the most hyped film of 2020, especially after it was delayed a couple of times after the pandemic took hold. Pixar’s Soul has been the subject of much conversation when Disney announced that it would be uploaded onto Disney+ on Christmas Day. I had actively avoided watching any trailers but knew that it involved jazz somehow. Watching the film provided to be both captivating and enlightening, providing one of the most emotional scenes I have ever seen in a Pixar film (yes, you read that correctly!).

Soul is directed by Pete Docter who is responsible for some of the best Pixar films including my favourite of all time, Up. What Docter does so well is include more mature themes that children may not understand initially but can grow to appreciate whilst maintaining that feeling of hopefulness and light. The film follows aspiring jazz musician, Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx) who is struggling to find purpose as he works as a middle school teacher to make ends meet. Juggling the pressure from the school and his mother, Joe finally is given an opportunity to play with professional musician, Dorothea (voiced by Angela Bassett) but an unfortunate incident leads to his untimely death. What follows is an abstract and bizarre journey that explores what happens after life. When he finds himself mentoring an unborn soul called 22 (Tina Fey) to help find their spark and purpose to live, Joe begins to understand that there may be more to life than just jazz.

The film has garnered a lot of controversy among parents who feel as though the subject of life and death is too macabre to explain to children but death is a part of life and if your child is too young to understand then they are not likely to be affected by that aspect of the plot. Pixar’s earlier films Coco and Onward are among the many films that have incorporated life and death into their narrative yet generated no controversy for doing so. Soul has more to offer than simply suggesting what may lay ahead and there is enough music and liveliness to keep the overall tone lifted. Films can often be seen as a form of escapism but there is no harm in including some challenging questions and ideas into the storyline.

As expected, the cast is glittered with stars, bursting at the seams with huge A list names. I have previously mentioned some of them above and everyone does a fantastic job. I would, however, like to draw attention to the casting of Richard Ayoade and Rachel House as some of the monitors based in the “Great Before”, the place one enters before venturing to the “Great Beyond”. Ayoade and House mainly provide comic relief and their distinctive voices are always a nice inclusion in any film.

In terms of the score, it’s quite clear that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are having a stellar year after their recent collaboration for David Fincher’s Mank. The score for Soul is unlike any sound they have experimented with before. Combining jazz inspired music with dramatic ballads to show the clash between worlds from Joe’s perspective, the score is more subdued than what I thought it would be, particularly considering that jazz and music in general plays an integral role in the film. However, it feels as though that decision was made to show that music doesn’t necessarily have to be everything in Joe’s life. The tender moments we see him (or 22 as him) share with the people around him get him to realise this.

Soul really was worth the wait and more, particularly a scene near the end in which Joe journies as far as he can with 22 to Earth made for one of the huge emotional moments in Pixar history. The animation feels like it has been turned up a notch in terms of how much detail and scope the artists go. The scenes in which Joe ventures through the Great Before are the reason why audiences became captivated with Pixar in the first place. That unhindered imagination where nothing is impossible is hard to ignore and easy to appreciate. I do feel as though the ending could have done with an extra scene just to tie everything up neatly but that is proper nitpicking. Missing out on Soul is missing out on one of the best cinematic experiences of the year. It is just such a shame that it wasn’t to be appreciated on the big screen.

What did you think of Soul? Let me know in the comments below!

Soul is now showing on Disney+ so watch it as soon as you can!

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