LFF 2020 film review: Soul
Terry the accountant10
Billie Melissa | On 19, Oct 2020
Director: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett, Graham Norton, Richard Ayoade, Rachel House, Alice Braga
Watch Soul online in the UK: Disney+
Soul streamed online as part of the 2020 London Film Festival. For more on how the festival works, click here.
The team behind Soul received a five-year timeframe to bring it to the big screen, and it took them only four. It feels as though somewhere in the universe, there was someone eagerly speeding up the process in anticipation of the connotations that would come with 2020.
Jamie Foxx is Pixar’s first Black lead as Joe, a middle-school band teacher from New York who has spent his life fixated on a dream that all-surrounding forces discourage him from pursuing. When the day he’s been awaiting arrives, and he finally has a chance to prove to himself he has what it takes to make it, he has an accident which sends him into a purgatory-esque dimension between life and death.
The animation is arguably Pixar’s most ambitious, the design being wildly different to anything they’ve done in the past, tasked with creating intricate designs for characters representing spirits as opposed to real people. Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga and Rachel House do an excellent job of inhabiting these roles, adding comic relief to the emotionally charged narrative, hugely down to House’s fantastic ability to play the scorned accountant, Terry.
The film’s script takes a moment to find its footing, feeling a little mechanical at first, but when the central action begins, the words of Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers come alive. It was a collaborative process bringing Soul to life, with the film exhibited through multiple consultancies and workshops with both the Braintrust and Pixar’s Black employees. It is so evident in every facet that the people bringing this film to life deeply cared about getting it right.
Music is a language in Soul, being an active part of the narrative with both diegetic and non-diegetic music adding to the emotion and story equally. Joe’s passion is exhibited through Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score, making the art even more tactile through close-ups of Joe’s hands working its way across the piano. There is so much love in every frame, and every audience member will recognise that passion, whether it be for music or another talent.
Soul’s moral compass fixes on the idea of purpose. Joe is so hellbent on the tunnel vision of making his dreams come to fruition that, along the way, he forgets to enjoy the wonder of everyday magic. Tina Fey’s character of “22” is there to highlight this, being an untethered soul who has existed through multiple mentors in the realm before life. Foxx and Fey’s chemistry is dynamic, and watching them bounce off one another for 100 minutes is enough of a Christmas gift for anyone who may tune in on Disney+ on 25th December to watch.
It is clichéd to attach the label of “the film we need right now” to a feel-good animation, but after a year as turbulent as this, it truly is a relief to be wrapped up inside Soul. The fixation on joy – where it comes from and how we can find it – is life-affirming and grounds us in the idea that there is so much wonder if we open our eyes to it.
Soul will be released on Disney+ on 25th December 2020