There are plenty of descriptives that could be applied to 2020, though one that often comes up in conversation is the word “strange.” Yes, this year was quite strange. From the global pandemic to the social inequality to the political circus, we have learned quite a lot about what it truly means to be human from 2020. Soul, the newest Pixar film from Pete Docter, wraps up the hope-eluding emotions we have all felt this year, which might just be one of the reasons why it defines 2020 better than any other film.
Pixar is known for giving shapes and characteristics to concepts that are otherwise abstract. These concepts seem to pair existence with existentialism. Thinking back to Inside Out (2015), we see the inside of an eight-year-old girl’s psyche, as she deals with the confusion of what it is to grow up. In Up (2009), we saw the grief of an old widower as he takes off to the skies in his house to keep his promise to his long lost wife.
Pixar’s Soul movie (2020) takes it a step further, posing heavy questions to the audience about the meaning of life. Beyond that, it gives its take (an incredibly creative one at that) on the origin of life too.
There is no doubt that Soul is the work of genuine curiosity and reflectiveness. Docter is an exceptional creator with a gift to portray these emotions on screen. Of course, a fair amount of that credit goes to writers Mike Jones and Kemp Powers too.
The story circles around Joe Gardner, the first black lead in the world of Pixar voiced by Jamie Foxx. Joe is a middle-school jazz teacher who accidentally falls to his death after stepping into a manhole, sailing his way into the afterlife, or as Pixar puts it, the “Great Beyond.”
He befriends a truant soul, 22 (Tina Fey), reluctant to visit Earth. The defiance of 22 to visit Earth is a complete contrast to Joe’s obsession to live.
Though this New York film is thorough in its story and creativity, it somehow feels closest to the pandemic era that we are in currently. People spent a fair portion of the year putting their lives on hold. Soul is a reminder to the world that life is not waiting for anyone. Similar to jazz itself, it is in a constant stream of creation.
Of course, one of the main questions that people are asking before watching it is,
“Will my kids get it?”
While any parent would like to pretend their child is wildly intuitive, connecting with the depths of this movie, it’s a very profound story for any child. With discussions of deep human emotion, death, desire, and the afterlife, it almost seems as if it is more for parents than it is for the young ones.
Pixar’s Soul movie is currently available on Disney+.