“Soul” offers thought-provoking and heartwarming escape from a pandemic-ridden world


“Soul” follows the journey of musician Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) on his way to get back to his body before the biggest performance of his career.

Pixar is known for addressing deep, existential themes in their movies (á la “Inside Out” and “Coco”), and I expected nothing less when diving into their latest release, “Soul.” And it definitely delivered, addressing topics such as one’s purpose in life and the reason for living.

Soul follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), an aspiring jazz musician stuck as a middle school band teacher. After finally landing his dream gig working with saxophonist Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), he suddenly falls and almost dies. Accidentally managing to escape death, he finds his soul in the “great before,” where new souls are mentored to find their “spark.” Joe meets an insubordinate and insolent new soul there, named 22 (Tina Fey), and they embark on a journey to get Joe back to his life, and to get 22 her “spark.”

A big theme in this movie is the idea of appreciating the seemingly insignificant things in life. I appreciated how Pixar approaches this by incorporating humor into their larger themes while still focusing on the meaning.

For example, when 22 first gets to experience life, she runs and dances around, lies on a subway grate and basically inhales her first slice of pizza. While on the surface, this may simply look like a childish adult having fun, it makes you think deeper about the hidden meaning. What 22 is really experiencing is the beauty of life and the small things that make you truly happy.

Another theme that this movie touches upon is the feeling of music. The way this movie portrays the effect music has on you is both creative and relatable. At the beginning of the movie, we see a scene where Joe gets lost in his piano playing, and we learn later in the movie that Joe was “in the zone,” or as 22 describes it, “the space between the physical and spiritual.”

I appreciated this portrayal of music because it resonates with my experience with it, and likely that of many others as well. Music offers an escape from reality, and this movie shows that well, with his surroundings disappearing from the screen when Joe is playing. The animation literally shows how music can transport you to another world.

The movie also addresses the pursuit of your dreams and the familial conflict that often ensues. At a few points in the movie, Joe is at odds with his mother about his passion for music because his mother thinks he should pursue a career that is more stable and reliable. But by the end of the movie, Joe’s mother realizes how important Joe’s musical dreams are to him, and begins to support him fully for the first time. This subplot was a heartwarming addition to the movie, and as cliché as the “follow your dreams” theme is, Soul does an excellent job of making it original.

The most important theme of this movie is, in my opinion, the one about finding your purpose and your “spark.” When finding their own “sparks,” the characters diverge as Joe and 22 each go on their unique character development journey and learn important lessons about life.

22 has existed as a lifeless soul for thousands of years, losing hope of ever finding a reason to live or to ever find her “spark.” But when she is on Earth, finally appreciating what life has to offer, she realizes that merely living and soaking up her life is her spark. Enjoying the little things, such as a leaf falling from a tree, a lollipop from the barber’s or the crust of a pizza, is the reason life is worth living.

This connects to Joe’s personal discovery, for throughout the whole movie he believes his only life’s purpose is to play music. We see in the movie the “lost souls,” who have become fixated on one aspect of their life and have become disconnected from the rest of it. After seeing earth anew alongside 22, Joe realizes he is heading this way as well. He learns that as much as he can have his purpose of becoming a musician, there is more to life than that, and the beauty of life is appreciating every part of it.

The most touching (and tear-jerking) part of this movie is at the very end when Joe is asked what he is going to do with his life. He simply responds with, “I’m going to live every minute of it.” Especially now, in a pandemic-ridden world, this theme is particularly applicable, for it reminds you to focus on the good things that you’re given and to live your life to the fullest even in the hard times.