Soul: a simple, yet subversive experience


Giovanni Machado, Opinions Editor

I think it had been a long time since I anticipated a movie as much as I anticipated Soul. However, despite all my excitement, I was somewhat scared. The film looked incredible, but the idea that a dreaming man who loved jazz would end up dying and turning into an amoeba-like soul form gave me the vibe that the producers would somehow ruin this idea that had so much potential.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

The film starts featuring Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a guy who, when the movie begins, is working as a band teacher at an elementary school. But Joe’s true passion is jazz. He wants and has always wanted to be a jazz pianist. That is his purpose in life.

That same day he gets a call from an ex-student of his who says he found an opportunity for him to play in a very famous band in New York City. He has an audition to prove he deserves to join the band, and nails the audition. He impresses the bandleader and is called to play that very day at 9 PM. Euphorically, Joe leaves the place – and promptly falls into a manhole and dies.

As I saw the trailer, this part was not surprising to me, but there was my biggest fear, that this story, up to this point, interesting, would be obliterated by this blob that he turned into. And luckily, it didn’t happen.

The film has an excellent balance between this spiritual world and the real world. The character 22 (Tina Fey), who is this unborn soul that accompanies Joe for most of the story, is much more interesting than I thought she was going to be, and this movie, in general, is much better than I could’ve even imagined.

It is deep, funny, artistic, inspiring, beautiful, and probably one of the few from Pixar that really sent a message that I can say that I’m going to take for my life.

When Joe sees the highlights of his life and realizes that it was very insignificant and very heavy, I wasn’t expecting it to be that deep, it makes you think that if you died today and saw the highlights of your life, would you be proud of it? These are not questions you see in a typical “children’s movie” and this is the point I wanted to get to.

Most of the adults I saw talking about the movie loved it as much as I did, and the message seemed to reach them as much as me. Yet, my younger brother didn’t seem to like the movie that much, and I understand him. This is because from time to time the Pixar decides to make an extremely deep and ambitious film, and in this case, perhaps too ambitious, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t sell that much to children.

The message of the film is quite simple: we focus too much on finding our meaning on this planet, thinking that we will only be complete when we reach our main goals in life, while what we really should be focusing on is to live every second of our existence, creating connections, friendships, and memories.

And this is a theme that had not been clear since the beginning of the story.

Joe is focused on his goal of playing in a jazz band, and we, the audience, sympathize with him. The fact that he is not focusing on the simple things in life is not clear until 22 enters his body and he enters the cat’s body and watches 22 living his life, learning about the simple pleasures that Joe was used to experiencing every day. And the way that 22 forms connections with people and things around her is so organic, natural, and simple, that makes Joe realize how much he’s been missing out. 

The final scene of Joe finally realizing the value of the small moments in his life is a great example of a Pixar moment, and even though it is not one of the most emotional ones compared to other Pixar works, it still made me tear up by the simplicity in the message.

Soul is a movie that I hope to visit and revisit at different times in my life. This movie made me laugh, almost cry, and learn things about life that I had never stopped to think about, just like Joe. And as far as I’m concerned, the movie did its job in passing its message.