Soul is a 2020 Pixar animated film that was directed by Pete Docter and Written by Pete Docter, Mike Jonas, and Kemp Powers. It follows Joe, a middle school band teacher, who dies suddenly, and doesn’t feel like he’s ready for his time to be up. He dies right before he’s able to perform at his dream gig. He had been doing on and off side gigs, but was never able to land his big shot, and when he finally does, he dies. He is transported to the Great Before, the inbetween before a soul is reincarnated as a newborn baby, or when a soul goes to the Great Beyond. The Great Before, also known as the You Seminar, is where young souls go to gain their personalities, and prepare for life on earth. Joe pretends to be an instructor to avoid being sent to the Great Beyond, he poses as a mentor, and his job becomes to help 22 find her spark. 22 has been in the Great Before for many years and has never been able to find her spark. Joe reveals that he’s not her real mentor and that all he really wants is to go back to Earth, so he can perform. 22 and Joe come up with a plan to switch places. 22 can avoid having to experience life and can go straight to the Great Beyond, while Joe can go back to Earth and enjoy the rest of his life. They go to the Zone, where they meet Moondwind, who’s able to get Joe back to Earth, since his body is in a coma on life support. Joe and 22 end up going to earth, but 22 is stuck in Joe’s body, and Joe is in a cat. Moonwind can switch their bodies, but not until later, so 22 has to pretend to be Joe until 6:30pm, 30 minutes before Joe’s performance. While experiencing life on earth for the first time, 22 starts to change her opinions on wanting to be human. The film attempts to answer the age-old question of the meaning of life and does so by showing us the many different avenues a person can go to define that.
While in Joe’s body, 22 starts to have very genuine moments with the people she meets. One of Joe’s students, Connie, comes to Joe’s apartment and tells him she’s quitting the band. Connie plays a piece for 22 and 22 is able to see how much Connie really loves the Trombone and tells her she shouldn’t quit. 22 and Joe have to go to the barber shop to fix Joe’s hair before the gig. 22 has a very heartfelt conversation about life with everyone in the barbershop, including the barber, Dez. Dez opens up about how he really wanted to be a veterinarian. 22 is shocked when she hears this and says she feels bad that now he’s stuck being a barber and being unhappy, but Dez quickly shut that down and explains that he loves his life and is content being a barber. The next person 22 interacts with is Joe’s mom. 22 accidentally ripped Joe’s pants and they have to go to her alteration shop to have it fixed. She refuses to fix his suit and goes on to say that she’s tired of seeing him chase his dream of music. He had been on countless gigs and nothing ever came from it. He got a full-time position offer at the middle school he works at and he should be accepting that position and not trying to do another gig. Joe explains that music is his life. He’s wanted nothing more than to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue his love for music. He finally was able to land his dream gig and he can’t die knowing that he didn’t at least try. His mom agrees to help him and gives Joe his dad’s old suit. On their way to the gig 22 realizes that she wants to experience life. She confronts her fear of not having a real purpose and accepts that, that’s okay, and they end up being transported back to the Great Before.
Joe is able to go back to earth and play his gig. After he realizes that 22 should get to experience life and wants to reconcile after that got into a fight, after they returned to the Great Before. 22 feeling hopeless becomes a corrupted soul, but Joe is able to save her and helps 22 get prepared to go to Earth and start her own new life. 22 is finally ready for life and Joe is finally ready to accept his journey after death. We’re able to see two sides of the conversation about life. We have one side who’s afraid to let go. They’re not ready to accept that it’s over, especially because they feel they have so much left to live. Joe felt his life was meaningless because he couldn’t experience his dream and he fought for his chance to finish life. We have the other side of someone who’s so afraid to live. The idea of experiencing life with no passion or no real spark is something everyone would avoid if they could, but it’s sometimes an unfortunate reality for some. It sometimes feels hard to live when you feel you don’t have a spark the way others do and it can sometimes make life feeling meaningless. We’re so conditioned to believe that we have to find the perfect meaning of life. Without finding the perfect meaning, we’re missing out on something, but that’s not what life is about. There’s no perfect meaning and the point of life is to just live. Your purpose doesn’t need to be one thing and it doesn’t need to be so clearly defined. Life is just life and the meaning of life is to simply live. Your meaning is whatever you’d like and there doesn’t have to be a specific thing for it.
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