By Pujita Tangirala (‘22) | March 1, 2021
Over the course of quarantine, I have been able to explore countless movies and TV shows with my extra time. I clearly remember seeing the trailer to the movie Soul a while back, and at that moment, I made a mental note to myself that this was going to be a good one. As a jazz drummer myself, I was thrilled to see a movie focusing on the journey of a middle school jazz band director, and I was also drawn in by its representation of Black American culture. Although I thought I was in for a stereotypical movie about a struggling musician, I was pleasantly surprised and blown away by the deeper meaning and life message I was able to take away from Soul.
The rising action of the movie begins when main character Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher and aspiring jazz musician, falls into a manhole just moments after receiving the best gig of his life. He finds himself in the afterlife about to die. Unwilling to give up his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attempts to escape and instead finds himself in the “Great Before,” a realm that prepares unborn souls for life. There, he is mistaken for a “mentor” for the unborn souls. He then gets assigned to mentor a young soul named 22.
In the “Great Before,” the goal is for each unborn soul to find their “spark” to attain an Earth pass and begin life. However, 22 is stubborn and unable to find her spark; this is fueled by her dislike for life on Earth. She believes that life is meaningless and worthless, as all it can bring is pain and discomfort. Unfortunately for her, a mistake by Joe leads to both of them ending up on Earth: her trapped in Joe’s body, and him trapped in the body of a cat.
Here, the movie begins to explore two individual journeys of growth. While 22 slowly starts to see the meaning and value of life, Joe views his own life through another perspective. During this period of switched lives, 22 (in Joe’s body) converses with various people about their passions. Surprisingly, this experience on Earth finally allows 22 to find her spark.
This moment is particularly shocking for Joe, who believes that the only meaning of life is to pursue a passion, and 22 did not exhibit a specific passion during their time on Earth together. At this moment, Joe realizes that the meaning of life is much simpler than that passion. By appreciating every waking moment of life as a gift, one can find their “spark” or meaning. This message struck me very personally and was my favorite part of the movie.
Overall, I would highly recommend watching Soul. The combination of animation, afterlife, music, and the deeper meaning of life all came together for a great watch.
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