Coming out on Christmas Day on Disney+ is Soul. This latest piece of animation from Pixar and Walt Disney Studios is set in a fascinatingly fresh new take on the afterlife.
The film opens with Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) teaching his less than enthused class. He then learns that he was receiving a full time position at the school, health benefits, pension, the whole shbang. He actually seems less enthused with this. We learn quickly that Joe’s true passion is jazz and becoming a famous piano player. His mother however believes that he had his chance and if it were going to happen it would have happened by now. He should settle into the stability of his “real” job and give up on what she seems to deem an enthusiastic hobby.
Then he gets his big break. Luck meets opportunity and he gets his opportunity to play in a big band at his favourite club. While on cloud nine after getting the gig, Joe sadly falls down a manhole. Waking up in a mysterious (but beautiful) void, he finds himself moving to a stunning white light. It is here that he realises that he has died and so he desperately tries to getaway. He ends up in The Great Before and through some trickery figures out a way to maybe get back to his body and fulfil his lifelong dream.
A lot of Soul
Soul wowed me. That is the best description. It has been so long since I’ve been wowed like this from Pixar. I thought I’d seen everything they could possibly do with the visual medium. With Soul, I was so wrong and so happy to be. The animation team came up with such fascinating designs for characters, from the unnerving lost souls to the fluid and whacky soul counsellors. The team went above and beyond to showcase the visual life of this world. It’s vibrant and flowing with colour.
The film for the most part is quite original. The storytelling is great because the film is filled with several memorable characters. 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who doesn’t want to go and live a life on Earth is an excellent foil to Joe. She is thousands of years old and is disillusioned with the aspect of a life. She needs that spark to go down to Earth, but she can’t find anything that interests her. So when Joe and her find themselves on Earth during the first act of the film it’s fascinating to see her try and put her lessons into practice with varying degrees of success.
Soul does hit a hiccup in the first act when 22 and Joe return to Earth, entering what I like to call the Freaky Friday section of the film. I genuinely began to worry, because the film had gone from the visually sumptuous Great Before back to Earth and I worried it was going to go the clichéd route I expected. Thankfully though the film does not go this expected route and actually goes on to deliver some heartful moments with surprisingly unique narrative choices.
A world of sight and sound bolstered by soul
Along with such an enjoyable and heartfelt story, Soul has a phenomenal score. It was put together by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It was moving, in a sense similar to a wave. It washes over you. I adored it. The scenes in the Great Beyond and Great Before are filled with these transcendent and wistful, while on Earth there is so much life and vigour to the movements of the characters. It’s eclectic and I loved it.
I know I’ve spoken on the visuals, but seriously the animation, the background and the character designs are gorgeous. The background in particular is distractingly pretty. My favourite scene is set in a barbershop, nothing awe-inspiring is going on, but it’s just so visually engaging, and the cast is giving it their all. I was just in silent awe.
Finding your spark and going with it
Soul is a wonderful film. It has a heartwarming message about finding your inspiration and try your best to make it happen. It also is one of the best films of the year. With its release on Christmas Day, this is the perfect Christmas gift for the whole family.
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