Home Lifestyle A Dark Night of the "Soul": a non-spoiler review of yet another...

A Dark Night of the “Soul”: a non-spoiler review of yet another Pixar classic to cap off 2020

Dark night of the soul (n.) – a period of spiritual desolation in which all sense of consolation is removed

Oxford University Press

More often than not, life doesn’t go specifically to plan or however we envision it to. There will always be natural bumps or adjustments along the way, as is common in the average person’s life. Pixar’s latest release this past Christmas, Soul, addresses this randomness of the human experience. It dives headfirst into this idea that although we may have passions or ‘sparks’ that fuel us or give us a reason to live, they should do so to educate and enrich our relationship with ourselves and others rather than fulfill our base desires selfishly at any cost. Soul’s message could not have arrived at a better time nor could it have been more relevant than to what we are living now in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has unintentionally given us needed time to wholly reflect on our lives and purpose – perhaps a blessing in disguise amid the breakneck speed of normal life we have become accustomed to. We are forced to fill our time wisely and generously within our isolated bubbles: whether it is with ourselves, family, partners, pets, or our local community who need our support more than ever. Soul reminds us that it is these experiences with others that will ultimately bring contentment. The film is bittersweetly relevant in what has been an unprecedented and turbulent year, giving more cause for optimism if we just open ourselves to the core messages that the film espouses as we look to the times ahead.

Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle-aged schoolteacher of music who dreams of the spotlight and making his name known playing in the greatest of jazz clubs. On the verge of his lucky breakthrough to play with a famed jazz musician, a literal misstep shakes everything up as Joe is taken from the world as we know it and thrust into a world of souls of all kinds: lost, “unborn”, and those ready to go to the “Great Beyond”. Within this purgatory of sorts he chancily meets up with one of these unborn souls in “22”, a cynical soul who together with Joe’s determination to return back to his mortal body must navigate what gives each other purpose.

Philosophically, Soul deals with questions of humanity and mortality in a more upfront manner in the vein of Inside Out and Coco. But by combining the untapped, childlike wonder of 22 with the experienced yet unfulfilled passion of a much older Joe, this film becomes a rare relatable coming-of-age tale for both kids and adults. Pixar has dabbled in this dynamic numerous times in its filmography. But they have never managed to do it in such a way that Soul accomplishes, as it tackles existentialism and the innate human motivation for living in such a way that gives credence to this ubiquitous longing no matter one’s age.

If ever there was a film that the world needed as we head into the New Year, Soul may just be it. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a modern Pixar classic and it is placed easily within my top five of their canon. Do your soul a favour and watch this film, which is available to watch for Disney+ subscribers now.

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Carlo Peña
From sunny L.A. Diehard supporter of Liverpool Football Club and Lakers basketball. Other interests include street photography, streetwear, street tacos and clean energy tech (which also, happens to be on the street...)

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