Soul (2020): Pixar’s Exploration of the Realized Life

Soul (2020) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

“Soul” is an amazing film that brings hope in the horrid storm that is 2020. This isn’t my favorite Pixar film but it is a favorite film and one I’d highly recommend. This film tackles what it means to be alive and presents it in the form of Pixar’s beautiful animation and the fantastic soundtrack by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor. Seriously, without going into SPOILERS I highly recommend the film.

The film was directed by Pete Docter who co-wrote the film with Mike Jones and Kemp Powers.

The film follows Joe (Jamie Foxx) a music teacher who has the chance for his dream gig when his soul is separated from his body in an accident. From here he seeks a way back as rebellious Soul 22 (Tina Fey) helps him along the way.


The Pros:

The Animation – Pixar continues to show why they are some of the best animators around. In this we see the details have improved with the lighting in a jazz club at one point, contrast of light in the Beyond and the details of emotion in the eyes and face. This is easily one of their most beautiful looking films.

The Soundtrack – Reznor and Ross give us an intense electric soundtrack in moments of character isolation and also the kinetic living feel of jazz when Joe is going about his daily life and events are happening on Earth. It provides a nice contrast between moods and the way they capture life and realization is illustrated perfectly in the film.

Soul 22 – Tina Fey’s Soul 22 has had a whole bunch of soul mentors through history trying to help her find the reason to live and join in Earth and over the course of the film we see that their rejection of her leads to her becoming lost, especially after they experience life in Joe’s body for a while. This is handled well as lost souls are defined by obsession and guilt and it is in Joe’s apology for joining those voices she finally takes that leap to join life. 22 has a great arc. They are also the comedic relief through the film.

Joe and his Relationships – Joe and his relationships are the core of the film besides Joe and 22 discovering what it means to live. In this we see Joe heal the rift between himself and his mom (she didn’t want him to do gigs because his dad had trouble bringing money in and it was hard for them), the student who grew up and helped him land the dream gig and his barber and students. Each of these relationships reveal a facet of Joe and what motivates him and gives him reason for being and him seeing his life through another’s eyes helps him see the things he was missing. It is beautifully done and I’m glad he gets a second chance at life at the end.

A Life Lived is More Than Inspiration – One of the running themes is souls before going to Earth need to establish personalities and a final spark. The soul mentors see this as a passion but it is more than that. It is in noticing and experiencing life. The reason is in walking and being part of the world and the relationships in it. This premise is beautifully explored and handled so well.

The Cons:

Afterlife Rules and Leadership – We got Soul Counselors keeping track of souls going to the Beyond and preparing new souls to enter the world. They are meant as abstract beings but just came off as bureaucrats, which was a shame as their fluid abstract designs showed they could have been presented as so much more.

The Mystics – The mystics function as a plot device as they help 22 and Joe find a way back into the world through the sea of Lost Souls. The reason I didn’t like this is none of the folks were dead and the mechanics made even less sense than how new souls become ready to enter the world. They were also primarily comedic relief but weren’t funny, so that didn’t work. Luckily their role is small (but important) so they aren’t around for a long time.

This was one of the 2 films I had to see before I do my “Top 5 Films of 2020” and even though I don’t think this one will make it I still highly recommend it for all the reasons listed above. This film rises to some of the highest of emotional beats and succeeds. It is really only in afterlife rules and mechanics where it doesn’t work nearly as well as “Inside Out.” Seriously, check this film out though. It is easily the best animated film that came out this year.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Top 5 Films of 2015


     It has been a pretty fantastic year for films! I wish we had more original films that weren’t part of Franchises come out or were not based off books, but that’s besides the point. I will always wish for that and in the end some of those stories aren’t as good as some of the ones born out of Franchises that have the passion and commitment of a good director and team at their back. Now, before I get started on my Top 5 Films of 2015 I want to do an honorary mention to a few films that are well worth checking out.

       “The Force Awakens” didn’t make the list but it is great Star Wars and is worth seeing. “Ant-Man” is one of the funnest Marvel Films in the entire Franchise and Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is more of his cinematic and writing charm. “Spotlight” is also a fantastic film that is well worth your time as is “Beasts of No Nation”. These are the ones that really stood out as “Age of Ultron” is a film you can take or leave and wasn’t nearly as much fun as “Ant-Man” or “The Force Awakens.”

     So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Movies of 2015, from 5th Place to 1st.


5) Ex Machina

Director Alex Garland

    “Ex Machina” is high concept sci. fi. at it’s best. In my opinion it blew “Interstellar” out of the water as it had a focus on characters and concept that we don’t really ever get from Nolan. It was also good at showing rather than telling which gives us some extremely haunting scenes. Oscar Isaac does an amazing job as the antagonist as Nathan the creator of the A.I. who manages to be both threatening, scary and vulnerable. The side characters are great too and I loved Gleeson in this role versus his General Hux in “The Force Awakens.” Here I could take him seriously as you could see where he was coming from as an outcast seeking connection with anyone. It’s a powerful film with themes of what it means to be sentience and what liberation is and if you enjoy science fiction, is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Mr. Holmes

4) Mr. Holmes

Director Bill Condon

      Ian McKellan is the most human of all the Sherlocks as it is the conceit of this film that Sherlock has to face how alone he is and that he can no longer count his mind as it is failing and nothing can prevent that. It’s a sad story for that reason as we learn about the case that caused him to retire. The film is powerful as we are given glimpses into different time periods of his life and how they tie to his loneliness in the present as he seeks to solve the problem of the case that caused him to retire, as he no longer remembers it and only has a picture of a woman as a clue. From here the case unfolds as we deal with all the layers of what it means to be mortal, and in that what it means to live and to die. I can’t recommend this film enough.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

The Martian

3) The Martian

Director Ridley Scott

   Check out the book. It is really good and Ridley Scott stayed surprisingly true to it. This is the best Ridley Scott film since “Kingdom of Heaven” and chances are you’ll enjoy it even if you aren’t into science fiction. This is a film full of humor and drama that gives us glimpses into the lives of the characters as Mark Watney (Matt Damon) seeks to survive on Mars until N.A.S.A. can work up a plan to bring him home. We see all of the drama…from the politics at N.A.S.A. to the hard choices that Watney has to make in order to survive some extremely difficult situations, and even the choice his crew is faced with on their journey back to Earth. There are no villains and because of it every character get’s explored in why they made the choices they did. The cast is fantastic and the cinematography is absolutely stunning. This film will no doubt win awards during the Oscars and it certainly deserves those awards.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10


2) Inside Out

Director Pete Docter

       There were two unbeatable Pixar films for me, until I saw “Inside Out.” Those films are “Wall-E” and “Up.” Both films capture the beauty and hardship of being alive or being human so well and this film is no different as we get to see emotions as living beings interacting and making choices when their host Riley is pulled away from her hometown to San Francisco and has to make new friends and get used to a world where she feels alienated. Without giving anything away, this film will probably make you tear up. There is loss, growing up and moving on and integrating past events and emotions to create a whole. It is one of the best films that explores human psychology that I have ever watched, and as an aspiring psychologist I appreciated the framework this film brought and explored. The characters and living emotions are wonderful and the voice actors were perfectly cast for the roles whether it was Lewis Black as Anger or Amy Poehler as joy. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Pixar has struck gold again and told one of the most compelling masterpieces of what it means to be human.

Final Score: 10 / 10


1) Mad Max: Fury Road

Director George Miller

     “Fury Road” is one the deepest action film I have ever watched. Who would have thought that a giant car chase could explore themes of patriarchy, feminism, liberation, redemption and the healing from trauma while giving us the best cinematography and some of the best characters to come out of any fiction. Immortan Joe was a fantastic villain who managed to be both vulnerable and threatening, Theron’s Furiousa was an amazing protagonist who was flawed but whose drive carried the plot as it is her freeing Joe’s Breeding Wives that lead to the chase and the premise of the film. Tom Hardy as Max also gives us a gruff vulnerability too as we see him slowly regain his sanity over the course of the film. This is a universe that is so much fun and that I look forward to returning to again. George Miller created a masterpiece greater than all of his other past work and created a film that I expect to forever be a classic.

Final Score: 10 / 10

      These were my Top 5 Films of 2015, I’d be curious to hear about yours as well. It was an overall great year for films and I look forward to see the stories that these films inspire in the future.