Screenshots taken from YouTube
Rating: 5/5 stars
Editor’s Note: This review contains some spoilers.
I was thrilled to hear that Disney Pixar’s newest animation, Soul, had won the hearts and warmed the soul of the Golden Globe judges, scooping up two awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Original Score, at the Golden Globes last Sunday.
In case you haven’t watched the movie, it centres around high school music teacher, Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), whose dream is to play for a big time jazz band. And he almost made it into the spotlight when he was invited to play in the band of jazz legend, Dorothea Williams, after a successful audition.
Unfortunately, Joe never made it to his big opening night. Instead, the only lights he saw that evening were the ones beckoning dead souls like him into the “Great Beyond”.
The story follows his journey in the afterlife, where he is unable to accept the fact that he was no longer alive. And in a bid to return to Earth, to re-enter his body so he could make it to the big night, Joe tried to game the system in the “Great Beyond”, but failed. So instead of heading back to Earth as he had hoped, he found himself in the “Great Before”, a place for unborn souls. It’s in the “Great Before” that he meets 22, a jaded and bored unborn soul that has repeatedly failed to find her passion or her spark.
To avoid spoiling the story any further, I shall stop there and let you watch the rest of the movie yourself. But the movie left me with some soul-food to chew on, which I’d like to share with you:
1. Our obsession in finding that big moment can be futile
Like Joe obsessing over his need to play in big gigs, alongside jazz legends, many of us spend a lot of our lives clamouring towards big momentous events, whether it’s winning an award, achieving a milestone, or scoring a big break in our fields of study or work.
But just as our main character came to the realisation that life wasn’t what he had anticipated it to be, and worse, that such “big” moments didn’t actually satisfy, so we see the same happening in our lives.
While there is nothing wrong in excelling in our given careers, or winning a few awards along the way, we’d be sadly mistaken if we think that those are the things we need to give us full satisfaction. Despite all the awards we may have won, there is still a yawning gap in our hearts, crying out for a purpose-filled life beyond our achievements.
And like the preacher in Ecclesiastes, we look at our trophies and arrive at the same conclusion in Ecclesiastes 2:11: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Life is more than just the gleaming awards we have won. For Joe, he learned that beauty lies in the everyday moments such as pizzas and autumn leaves. Likewise, for us, instead of chasing after pleasures and achievements that can never satisfy, we ought to “eat and drink and find satisfaction [our] toil” (Ecclesiastes 2:24), for all that we have is ultimately given to us by God for a time and season. And this might look like appreciating our circle of friends, or celebrating a culinary success, or enjoying the crisp, cool breeze of a fresh autumn morning.
2. Our insecurities can prevent us from fully living
While Joe yearned to live the big shiny life, 22 (the unborn soul) was so terrified of living that she just could not and would not find a spark for her soul to earn her Earth Pass badge (ticket to earth). Thinking she wasn’t “good enough” for earth and afraid that she might mess up, 22 hung back in the “Great Before” and missed out on life’s enjoyments, such as hearing the laughter of friends meeting at a cafe for food, or smelling the delicious aroma of a good pizza, or enjoying the changing colours of the four seasons.
Don’t we sometimes act the same way as 22 in our daily lives? Oftentimes we battle with our insecurities and self-esteem, which prevents us from taking the plunge into the unknown and experiencing life as we should.
However, we have Someone who promises to hold our hand even in our deepest fear (Isaiah 41:10), who sings over us with joy (Zephaniah 3:17), and who will instruct and teach us in the way that we should go (Psalm 32:8). Going into the big unknown is scary, but we have a God who will be with us every step of the way, so unlike 22, there is no need to hang back in fear of being “not good enough”.
3. Our lives are like a mist—so live with wisdom
Soul also showed me how short life really is. One minute, Joe was busy getting dressed and rushing off for his big opening event, and the next, he found his dreams dashed and himself with other souls in the “Great Beyond”.
That scene reminded me of James 4:13-14 which says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on businesses and make a profit. You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”. And how true is this! How often do we rush about in our daily hive of activities, making grand plans to live big lives, blind to the reality that all that we do might come to naught? Just as we saw last year with the arrival of Covid-19 which caused our plans and dreams to wither and die within a short space.
Scripture says we are to ask God to teach us to number our days, so we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). For me, that’s about living my life wisely. I could be called into the “Great Beyond” at any time. And if that happens, will I be able to tell God that I had spent my days yearning for the big, eureka moments, so much so that I had missed on the other calling He has for me? That is to forgive my enemies (Matthew 5:44), to love my neighbour (Mark 12:31), or to care for the orphans and the widows (James 1:27)? Or will I tell Him that I was too afraid to do anything, so I hid the talent He had given me, only to be admonished for being a “wicked and lazy servant” (Matthew 25:26)?
Beyond just a gentle, soulful movie that left me going “Awww” when the credits ran, Soul reminded me life isn’t made up of a series of glorious highlights, but of the little bits in-between that God has provided for us in every moment.