If 2020 left you feeling like a lost soul—exhausted, drained, and overwhelmed—you are most definitely not alone.
In a year as tumultuous as 2020, it’s easy to get upset and frustrated. Which is why Disney-Pixar’s Soul couldn’t have come at a better time.
The animated film follows music teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who finally books the gig of a lifetime—his lifelong dream to perform jazz onstage—only to fall into a manhole before he could even seal the deal.
He ends up in a coma in a hospital, while his soul ends up on an escalator-like bridge going to the Great Beyond. Unwilling to die before his ambitions are fulfilled (“I’m not dying today, not when my life just started!”), he escapes and lands in the Great Before, a place where souls are given their characteristics before they are sent to Earth. There he meets pre-corporeal adorable blobs, including 22 (Tina Fey), a misfit who seems perfectly content never to “get a life.” Through a bureaucratic mix-up, Joe is assigned to mentor the not-yet-born, stubborn soul. They both end up going on an adventure to get the answers to some of life’s questions.
Disney/Pixar movies like Inside Out, Up, and Coco tread similar existential ground as Soul, but the latter takes things further by going after complex, abstract, and philosophical themes and characters. It’s a film that will probably leave its audiences with more questions than answers about life, purpose, and human experience—and I think that’s okay. Hopefully, these questions will help you get to know yourself and the people around you better.
So, if you still feel as if the world is weighing you down and if you’re lucky enough to be able to watch Soul (it’s screening in places under MGCQ), then maybe it’s time for some introspection and self-reflection.
What makes you, you?
Especially for adults going through self-doubt and insecurity, this is a question you can ponder on. Feel like you’re just a regular Joe (pun intended) or Jane who has nothing special about you? Think again.
It’s also a great topic to discuss with kids. What makes them special? What are their quirks? How are they different from their siblings or friends? What unique attributes do they have that makes them who they are?
What’s your purpose?
In the beginning of the movie, Joe Gardner feels weighed down by the world and that he’s just going through the motions of everyday life, waiting for the next time he can be “jazzing.”
“My only purpose on this planet was to play. It was what I was meant to do and no one’s going to stop me,” Joe says.
Spoiler alert: Joe does get to play his gig later on in the movie. It goes really well that he gets a permanent position with the band. He has finally landed his dream job! So why does everything still feel so…meh?
That’s when he realizes that life is not about having a singular purpose to which his success or happiness is bound. It’s in fact about “regular old living”—the everyday things—and how he should live every moment of it. This doesn’t mean it was wrong for Joe to dream and be passionate about music. But when he let it define his life (there’s a beautiful scene in the movie about being “in the zone” ), then he missed out on other things he should be paying attention to.
“Maybe sky-watching can be my spark,” 22 tells Joe. “Or walking! I’m really good at walking!”
“Those really aren’t purposes, 22,” Joe responds. “That’s just regular old living.”
But when 22 finally gets her pass and Joe asks Jerry, one of the soul counselors, what 22’s purpose was, Jerry laughs.
“A spark isn’t a soul’s purpose!” Jerry says. “Oh, you mentors and your passions. Your purposes, your meanings-of-life. So basic.”
What’s really important in your life?
After almost a year of being unable to see family and friends, of profound loss (life, job, opportunities), and of simply not doing what we’ve been used to before the pandemic, we sometimes think we can’t survive another month in lockdown. And it’s normal to think and feel that.
What Soul reminds us is that no matter how dark our current reality may seem or how monotonous our everyday lives are, we shouldn’t forget to make the most out of every moment and, as Joe says in the end, “live every minute of it.”