More often than not, we treat our dreams as our ultimate destination. Growing up, we have this picture inside our head of the person we wanna become, or the thing we wanna be doing for the rest of our lives.

While there’s no harm in being driven by a certain “dream” in such a way that every decision we make in the present is dedicated to achieving it, there’s a downside of it that a lot of us might overlook. What if things don’t work out? What if, due to circumstances that are way beyond our control, we end up at the opposite end of the goal we’re chasing? Does it mean our life stops?

2020 has been a big wake-up call. No, it’s worse: it’s a slap in the face. The past 12 months has taught us harshly that life could stop at any given moment for anyone, and any possession, any position in life, any plan for the future we’re trying to make happen, could be rendered useless. And now, as we go about trying to recover from the damages the worst year ever has inflicted, many of us are left grappling with the question, “Where do we go from here?”

Soul, Pixar’s latest masterpiece

(Attention: Spoilers ahead)

Like most films initially scheduled for an early 2020 release, Soul had to suffer multiple delays. It was originally set to launch in June last year, but with the pandemic and all the other tumultuous events that came alongside COVID-19, the film went through a six-month delay. It was on Christmas, that Disney Pixar was finally able to let the world see their new creation.

 

Soul tells the story of a middle school music/jazz musician named Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who finally gets the gig of his dreams only to die shortly afterward, right in the middle of his celebration. Yep, while we are no stranger to animated films dealing with heavy themes like death and existential dread, this one actually starts killing off its protagonist in an abrupt and twisted manner that would have made the Game of Thrones creators proud.

Joe Gardner finds himself in the afterlife known as ‘The Great Beyond,’ but he tries to escape because he’s not ready to die. He ends up in another otherwordly realm called ‘The Great Before,’ where souls must earn a badge that needs to be filled with traits so they can go to earth. Having wriggled his way around the authorities that run the place– all of which are named Jerry,  Joe gets mistaken for a soul mentor and is assigned with a stubborn little soul named 22 (Tina Fey).

With a surprising turn of events, the duo falls back to earth, with 22 ending up in Joe’s body and Joe’s soul ending up in a therapy cat. Although she was terrified at first, 22 learns to adapt to her human body and eventually finds enjoyment in life’s simple pleasures. However, an accountant from ‘The Great Beyond’ named Terry who has embarked on a mission to find the missing Joe, catches the two down on earth and brings them back to ‘The Great Before.’

At this point, 22 finds out that her badge, after millennia of finding the missing “spark,” has finally been completed thanks to her experiences as a human being. But then, Joe insists that it was through getting inside his body and experiencing his life that 22 found her spark, and so, 22 angrily throws the badge to Joe.

With the badge granting him passage back to earth, Joe goes back into his body permanently. He finally gets to perform alongside the legendary Dorothea quartet– his Big Break, basically. But after his successful performance, he realizes he still does not feel fulfilled. In fact, things only turn out for the worse: Joe goes back to his home asking himself if there’s more to life than just jazz, while 22, up there in The Great Before, becomes a lost soul.

“How are you going to spend your life?”….”I’m not sure, but I do know I’m going to live every minute of it.”

Realizing how selfish he has been towards 22, he enters The Great Before with the help of the little objects 22 collected while she was on earth. There, he finds 22, gives the badge back to her, and 22 finally enters the earth. Of course, there’s a tear-jerking farewell moment between the two, with Joe staying by his newfound friend’s side for as long as he can.

Ready to let go of his earthly life, Joe returns to ‘The Great Beyond.’ As he waits to pass the great, big, light that leads to nowhere, he is stopped by Jerry who thanks him for inspiring them. Joe gets offered another shot at life, which he accepts. A crucial exchange takes place between the two. “How are you going to spend your life?” Asks Jerry. “I’m not sure,” says Joe, as he crosses the portal between the afterlife and earth. Then Joe is back standing at the doorway of his house, staring lovingly at the bright sky, breathing in the fresh air, uttering the words, “But I do know I’m going to live every minute of it.”

Life has never been this complicated, and we’ve never been this far from what usually ignites our love for living. In ‘Soul,’ Pixar takes that complicatedness, and turns it into a visually captivating, feel-good experience that will remind us of a very simple thing we’ve forgotten. 22’s character, beautifully portrayed by Tina Fey, shows us that a simple conversation with someone, a piece of candy, or even a fallen leaf from a nearby tree, can be a source of pure, unadulterated happiness. The little things can leave an impact just as big as that of reaching our dreams– we just have to live, really live.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the film discourages its viewers from reaching a dream. If anything, Joe Gardner inspires us to be more dedicated to the attainment of our wildest dreams. But what ‘Soul’ wants the viewers– both young and old– to realize is that it’s also fine to just be alive free from the grandest ambitions– to just be here, in the present, savoring every bit of it.

Yes, it’s fine to just be here.

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