Review: ‘Soul’ brings life to what it means to be alive

Disney/Pixar’s newest release highlights protagonist’s search for purpose

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Mark Chrissan

In an edited photograph taken by Emma Hutchinson, a stuffed Terry character floats in space. Terry is a character from the movie “Soul” and plays as one of the antagonists to Joe. “‘Soul’ definitely opened my eyes to a new horizon,” writer Emma Hutchinson said. “It felt almost nostalgic to watch it, especially since my generation grew up watching Disney/Pixar.”

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Throughout the years, Disney and Pixar continue to create movies that dive deeper into the mental and emotional world rather than just the surface animation. Their latest release, “Soul,” came out exclusively on Disney+ Dec. 25, 2020. The movie took the world by storm with Pixar’s first African American protagonist, Joe Gardner, and his epiphany of what his soul’s purpose on Earth truly is.

But, this movie took me on a roller coaster of emotions and surprised me with how well it handled multiple deep topics.”

— Emma Hutchinson

“Soul” follows musician and music teacher Joe Gardner as he finally nails the job offer that would allow him to follow his passion of playing the piano, until he suddenly finds himself trying to escape death on a hospital bed. His soul is sent to a mysterious waiting area in between the “Great Beyond” and the beginning of life itself, where a portal to Earth sends new souls to be born into the world. As Joe tries to escape the reality that he’s about to die, he gets himself stuck in a sticky situation with an unborn soul, named No. 22, awaiting to be sent to Earth. Together, they search for their own purposes in life and realize that it might not be as complicated as they thought.

Personally, I was a little skeptical to watch this movie because it appeared like a cliche storyline – main character changes form in some way and goes on a journey of realization while trying to revert back to their original form. But, this movie took me on a roller coaster of emotions and surprised me with how well it handled multiple deep topics. Joe Gardner was quite literally your average “joe,” just getting by in life with his job as a middle school music teacher, not thinking about what the future held for him because he didn’t really see one. Joe later reflects on his own life when he meets No. 22, and realizes that his whole life, despite surrounded by the music that he loves, had no legacy to leave behind. This epiphany generated something inside me, a “spark” if you will, and I began to think of what kind of imprint I wanted to leave behind on the world. Even though I’m just a senior in high school, it definitely made me think about what I could do each day to leave a positive impact on those around me and how I could work harder today in order to inspire the future.

While Disney and Pixar typically advertise their content toward younger viewers, I believe this movie was directed towards teenagers, especially high schoolers. Teenagers in today’s society are constantly struggling with having to make decisions about their future: Where do you want to go to college? What career path do you want to take? How are you going to make money? I’m 17 years old, I can’t even decide what I’m going to wear to school tomorrow, so how could I possibly know what I want to do with my life right now? All Joe knew was his desire to follow his passion for music, but he never thought it would be teaching music at a middle school. He yearned for more, but he only got it when it was almost too late. The truth is, we have so little time in this life, so why should it be spent not doing what you love? Joe did love music, but he loved the performance aspect of music, and never chased his dream of performing for an audience because of factors that didn’t matter in the long run, like his mother thinking his music career won’t make him enough money to be financially stable. In reality, there’s truly nothing stopping you from doing what you love besides yourself.

The biggest theme throughout the entire film, in my opinion, was that your individual purpose on life is to just live for it. No. 22 didn’t want to be sent to Earth because she saw all the hatred, selfishness and dread that emitted from humans in their daily lives. She saw no purpose in it, until she got to experience it for herself in Joe’s body. As she lives through the eyes of Joe, she finds little pieces of beauty in everyday life, such as the taste of pizza and hearing music at the subway station. Joe learns that he doesn’t have a specific purpose on Earth, but rather his purpose is to just live and appreciate life for what it is. Both Joe and No. 22’s character development by the end of the movie is remarkable and shows that anybody’s attitude towards life can be changed once their eyes are opened by another.

“Soul” definitely opened my eyes to a new horizon, and it felt almost nostalgic to watch it, especially since my generation grew up watching Disney/Pixar. This movie covered all the bases of finding one’s self, which was an eye-opener for teenagers going into the next phase of their life, whether that’s going to college or just jumping right into the real world. I was intrigued from beginning to end, and even shed multiple tears during some moments. I think this movie came at a great time for all of us, with the pandemic going on, it’s hard to find purpose and motivation in life, but this film reminded me of the things that life is worth living for.