Pixar’s latest masterpiece is now available on Disney+ to stream for free. Soul is cinema at its finest, surpassing Ratatouille as my favorite Pixar film. Do I recommend it to kids? No way. Its themes and messages will go far over their heads, in my personal opinion. And though they’ll appreciate the film’s incredible visual components, they won’t know what’s going on. This is an extremely intellectual, philosophical film. Among countless other things, it meanders through the existential crises of adult living. It honestly feels like a Pixar version of a blend of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Inside Out, Birdman, La La Land, and The Tree of Life. But it does not merely mimic these films; it synthesizes the influences into a novel, profound work of art. I’d argue that Soul is, by far, the greatest film of 2020.
The story follows Joe. He’s a middle school band teacher who dreams of being a famous jazz pianist. He is convinced that music is his life’s purpose. But this is tested when he slips into a coma after an accident. He wakes up without a body, detached from the known universe, in the netherworld where souls exist before birth and after death. He embarks upon an elaborate journey to return to his human body on Earth. On the way, he meets an unborn soul. With categorically different personalities and outlooks on human existence, they clash. Their philosophies, as well as the conclusions they draw from identical experiences, are antithetical. Their adventure is a paradigm shift, challenging their beliefs while transforming their outlooks on life.
The result is a highly emotional, challenging experience. This film shines the most in its subtle little facets, emphasizing the beauty of nature, living in the moment, and the banalities we take for granted. Of course, my interpretations of Soul are idiosyncratic—you might have completely different takes on it—but what we can all share from Soul is its beautiful, cathartic, relatable nature. It captures the essence of life in ways that transcend the constraints of non-animated films. The animation is so lifelike that you forget you’re watching an animated film at times. The dialogue—filled with memorable lines and references—is both thoughtful and hilarious. Granted, Soul starts out slow, and I felt that it would’ve had one of the best endings ever if it ended 5 minutes earlier than it did. But otherwise, it is a flawless opus by a company that continues to meticulously outperform itself with each of its brilliant films. It will win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature and perhaps find itself in the race for Best Picture. Bravo, Pixar. You embody all that is wonderful in humanity.