“Soul,” directed by Pete Docter, is Disney’s most recent film as of December to be put onto their streaming platform, Disney+.
The film is about a band teacher named Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, who is trying to find a job where he can pursue his passion for jazz.
He feels as though his life is meaningless until he gets the news that he can play in a jazz ensemble with famous jazz musician Dorothea Williams, voiced by Angela Bassett.
Joe is so excited that he starts racing through town without watching where he’s running, resulting in him falling down a sewer hole into what they call “the great beyond.”
Joe, who is not ready to die, tries to get off of the conveyor belt leading him to the “light” and winds up falling into “the great before,” where unborn souls go to get their personality traits and “spark.”
In the great before, an unborn soul is matched with a mentor, someone who lived a remarkable life and is meant to help their assigned souls find their sparks. A spark is what helps them get their ticket to Earth.
Joe, a seemingly unremarkable man, gets mistaken for a random psychiatrist and is paired up with an unborn soul named 22, played by Tina Fey.
He hatches a plan to help 22 find her spark so he can simply take her Earth badge and go back to his life.
Initially, 22 doesn’t want to live because she has been in the great before for thousands of years and thinks the idea of living is dumb.
22 has had millions of mentors such as Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa and Muhammad Ali, and yet not one of these people could help her find her spark.
There is a great moment in the movie where a character talks about being in the zone.
You know when you’re writing a paper or dancing and you feel the moment when you zone out and it’s almost as if you’re not in your body, but you’re somewhere else? The movie visually depicts this in-between state in a new and creative way.
What I find most interesting is that being in the zone can quickly turn into a compulsive state where you can only think of one thing and eventually become a lost soul wandering about repetitively.
When 22’s soul winds up in Joe’s body and his soul enters a cat, she experiences living, and everything becomes fun to her.
There is a scene where she and Joe are sitting outside the jazz club talking and she sees a helicopter seed twirling through the sky, and 22 immediately seems as though she enjoys being alive.
“Truth is, I kind of feel like there was always something wrong with me, maybe I’m not good enough for living,” 22 says.
This is the moment where she decides she truly wants to live.
“Maybe sky-watching can be my spark, or walking, I’m really good at walking,” she said.
Joe replies, “Those really aren’t purposes 22; that’s just regular old living.”
This made me think that I really take regular old living for granted.
We get so obsessed with our purpose that we lose sight of the little things that bring us joy.
Another insightful moment of the movie is when Joe gets to Earth and plays his jazz show very successfully, but afterwards looks disappointed.
He asks Dorothea what happens next, and she said they would come back and do it all again tomorrow.
“I’ve been waiting on this day for my entire life, I thought I’d feel different,” Joe says.
Dorothea then answers, “I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to this older fish and says, ‘I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean.’ ‘The ocean?’ says the older fish, ‘That’s what you’re in right now.’ ‘This?’ says the young fish, ‘This is water, what I want is the ocean.’”
I think this part is extremely important because it shows that sometimes we get so involved with waiting for our life to start that we forget we have been living it.
This spoke to me as a college student, because I often think that I will be able to do things when I get a job, that all my life has meant nothing until I make it mean something.
Some of the criticisms of this movie, similar to those of Disney’s movie “The Princess and the Frog,” are that the movie doesn’t allow for black individuals to be princesses or leads.
We take away a black character and place it into a frog or a cat, and in “Soul,” the soul of 22 enters the body of Joe.
The audience sees Joe, the body of a black man, talking with a “white” voice for a majority of the movie.
I think that is a valid criticism of the movie because it’s all about representation.
When are we going to get a movie where the main character is a POC and they aren’t spending the majority of the movie as an animal?
Nonetheless, in my personal opinion, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and thought it was funny and insightful.
It discusses death, but the more important message is how to live again.
The main point of this movie, I think, is living.
I think we get so distracted by big-picture items such as jobs, school and family that we often forget how to live and truly enjoy the little things in life.