Soul is one of the latest additions to Disney Pixar’s family of films with a thought-provoking lesson about appreciating the seemingly simple parts of our days. Though an animated story, Soul has been a phenomenon across all ages, capturing a timeless message of being present in the moment - finding joy in the now - and subsequently walking through each day with a sense of gratitude.
The film is fitting for seasons where life may seem stripped back and short of society’s view of what is impressive or in a time where ambitions and goals are chased, sometimes at the expense of cherishing the precious day-to-day moments. There is a quote in Soul that stands out and possibly summarises the underlying message of the film. Here it goes:
“I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to this older fish and says, 'I'm trying to find this thing they call the ocean.' 'The ocean?' says the older fish. 'That's what you're in right now.' 'This?' says the young fish. 'This is water. What I want is the ocean.'"
It is such a striking analogy to measure the feeling of accomplishment in the present versus our perception of ‘arriving’ at a materialistic goal. Jazz pianist Joe Gardner, played by Jamie Foxx, learns to appreciate each day and the wonders in our physical surrounding, though only when he ‘arrives’ at his bucket-listed headline jazz show.
Directed and Written by Pete Doctor, alongside writers Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, the film carries a compelling montage of flashbacks reminding Joe of moments where he felt warmth, like the busker singing at the station or the maple seed falling from the tree. The little pockets of joy that become a big deal to us.
Soul - Disney Pixar
The music in the movie was moving, from the piano to the saxophone. Joe Gardner’s passion for jazz certainly translates both whilst in the pond as a music teacher and in the ocean as a jazz star. It was also nice to see Mr Gardner’s love for music echoed in his students at school. One of his students loves playing the saxophone and though she threatens to quit, she doesn't - and she never was going to - because she loves playing the sax. Often when we are passionate about a craft, we will keep at it.
Whilst we are speaking about compelling animated films, Canvas presented by Netflix is another short film about keeping at your talents. Written and directed by Frank E. Abney III, the film follows a grandfather who regains his passion for painting after a little inspiration from his granddaughter. The film portrays the courage of trying again after a setback or having been away from your talent for a while - picking up the paintbrush again; the pen, mic or whatever it may be for others.
Canvas - Netflix
Some parts of Soul are admittedly obscure, particularly the use of life beyond Earth to be a vehicle for the moral of the story. As a Christian with distinct beliefs, I found this vehicle obscure. There are other articles that speak on this beyond my mini-review.
Soul does not strip us of ambition - rather it removes the sole focus on ‘arriving’ at a specific moment in our materialistic goals. Joe Gardner closes the film expressing that he is going to live every minute. Maybe there is beauty in the journey and laughing in the present day, as well as looking forward to the future.