★★★★½ of 5
What keeps you going every day? What do you live for? Are you pursuing your passion? Does having a soul mean you’re really living at all?
I never thought I’d say this, but Pixar made me confront my own existence — in an incisive, depressive, and affective way.
Imagine being stuck on a 9-to-5 routine. You’re definitely over 30, and you’re still trying to chase your dreams that always feel like castles in the sky. No one around you seems to understand your passion, until one day you get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that might be the stepping stone to your big break. Suddenly, you feel like your life is about to actually begin.
And then, before all of that comes to fruition, you die.
“Soul,” Pixar’s latest film, just broke me to my core.
Pixar films succeed largely because, while they make the story mainly for kids, they don’t lose sight of the adults watching. Hence, these films tug on the viewers’ heartstrings by injecting them with doses of nostalgia to reconnect with their youth.
What Pete Docter does with “Soul,” however, is to turn it around: This high-concept movie is made with adults in mind. Using jazz music as its framework, the film perfectly encapsulates the collective frustration of the dreamers in us who never stop dreaming about doing the things that they really love, and yet who couldn’t seem to get a break. Think of “La La Land” but with themes of existentialism, determinism, and afterlife.
But there’s more. The filmmakers make us question our purpose for existing, showing us the big difference between simply breathing and actually living. And the film, in turn, contextualizes how people can be ‘lost souls’ once they stop chasing after their passion and simply go with the flow. “Soul” challenges the notion of defeatism in existence by showing that passion and purpose — while ultimately subjective — are potent fuels that keep our spirits and souls alive. I’ve never been this broken by an animated film since Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises,” and yet here we are.
“Soul” is Pixar’s most ambitious film, an existentialist movie that questions the audience what it means to truly live. It pulls no punches by showing how some of us go about our routine lives each day, but lack the passion to enjoy living. Truth be told: “Soul” is either a spirit-crushing reality check on how we waste our lives to passionless pursuits, or a loving epiphany to jolt us awake and impel us to start going after what (or who) makes us feel complete and alive.
One thing’s for sure: This is one of the best films of 2020.
Watch the trailer for “Soul” below.