Joe Gardener (Foxx) is a high school band teacher who would rather be performing jazz than teaching his unenthusiastic and out of tune class. A sudden freak accident occurs and his soul finds itself at The Great Before, a place where new souls are given a unique mix of personality traits and passions before heading to earth to become human.
The only way Joe can get back to his body is by helping Soul 22 (Fey) to find their spark. This is the special thing that a soul loves and makes them glad to be alive. What follows is an adventure through a fantastical world of new souls, lost souls, joy and life.
Wonderfully imagined worlds and existential ideas provide the emotional depth we’ve come to expect from Pixar. The creators consulted with rabbis, priests and shamen to design characters and places that represent a variety of concepts like souls, how they are organised, and the worlds they inhabit.
The animation mixes the usual richly detailed 3D humans of New York with more ethereal fog-like souls and even 2D picasso-esque line drawn characters. It makes for some wonderful combinations as the worlds start to collide and the 2D line characters inhabit a 3D space.
Each world also has its own sound design and the score was composed alongside the animation rather than being added afterwards. Earth is a cacophony of noise and freeform jazz with all its vibrancy and variety of life. The soul world of the Great Before has a more ethereal atmospheric score you might imagine for a hypothetical ‘nowhere’ kind of place.
“Soul” is funny, clever and sweet. But more than that, it inspires us to look at what brings us joy in life. It tells us that it’s ok to get lost in what we love whether that is playing music, feeling a fresh breeze, or meeting new people. You don’t have to achieve an ultimate goal in order to be happy.
A darker theme of depression lurks at the edges and reminds us what’s really at stake if we don’t pursue joy. Or if we pursue one thing so intently that we lose sight of the rest of life. Lost souls are given a touch of humour, being lumbering black monsters roaming the wilderness only to be rounded up by pirate/hippie Moonwind (Graham Norton) and returned to their bodies. Who could be more soulless than a hedge fund manager after all. But many will recognise the dangers of depression in these beasts, and the pollution of self-doubt. For people who connect with this theme there is an extra element of hope in the overall message. All is not lost, souls can be reconnected and there is always some joy to be had if you actively seek it and give yourself permission to savour it.
“Soul” is a jazz-infused kaleidoscope of life, the afterlife and the beforelife. Bring tissues and an open heart and you’ll end up savouring the sweetness of the air you gasp in as you sob through the end credits.
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Hi, I'm Caz. I live in Edinburgh and I watch a lot of films. My reviews focus mainly on women in film - female directors or how women are represented on screen.