Marina Gomberg: Pixar’s ‘Soul’ changed how we view our lives. It might change you, too.

How an 8-year-old and a grown woman found a message worth cherishing from this movie.

(Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar) Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) is a New York jazz musician who goes on an adventure to the soul realm, in Disney/Pixar's animated tale "Soul." It debuts on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, on the Disney+ streaming service.

Well, Pixar has done it again. Those liars. They say they’re serving up a charming animated film for entertainment, but actually deliver some super subversive life-affirming epiphanies. We saw it with “Inside Out” and we’re seeing it again with their Christmas release of the movie “Soul.”

It’s absolute false advertising.

And I’m 100% here for it. Fool us again, you brilliant artists.

Especially because this time, it changed my wife, Elenor’s perspective on her life and her value in the world.

The film, which I’m not going to explain or review in much detail because that’s what our esteemed film critic Sean Means is for, suggests (spoiler alert) we aren’t necessarily living on Earth because there’s something we have to DO, but we’re here because it’s special just to BE.


Yeah, just something simple.

As a person who’s questioned her value because she isn’t a world-renowned violinist or an Olympic snowboarder, Elenor was absolutely bowled over by this idea.

It took watching it four or so times to get there, because with our active 4 ½-year-old, we mostly see movies in small chunks, so when she made it to the end and pieced it all together, it was like her life made sense.

She is one of those people who has long questioned her value because her interests are more broad and numerous than lend themselves to the singular focus that results in a genius level of mastery. Meaning, she loves so much that she’s too busy being amused and enthralled to dive really super deep into one specific thing.

It’s actually a really charming quality — to be delighted so frequently — and one of the reasons life with her is a series of spectacular discoveries. Her value has always been clear as day for me.

But this generously distributed interest has caused her strife. She has thought her life lacked purpose.

In one of our many conversations since seeing the movie, she said, “The more I think about it, the idea of ‘purpose’ is so silly. It’s really embedded in our thinking and planning as we grow up. What can I be? How can I make money? How can I make a difference? How can I get a good job and be the best at what I do professionally? But it’s the [redacted] spark! The little moments and appreciation of kindness and being present. THAT gives you purpose.”


Wow. Yeah, to see that the way you walk through the world is meaningful when you had previously questioned that is a pretty big deal.

Just some lite life-altering therapy brought on by a children’s movie.

It made me wonder how the film resonated with young ones (given that I assume they’re the primary audience). So, I asked my 8-year-old niece, Cora, her thoughts. After seeing snippets of the film with her 4-year-old brother, she said this was her take on “the meaning of life” (her words not mine).

“Life is a circle that ends in death,” Cora wrote down for me as I plunked away at this column. “But it can be wasted or used. If wasted, it usually is because people want to have a purpose, but do not find one. But if you use your life carefully, you can accomplish some amazing things and discover that life is not about having a purpose; it is about experiencing being and just having a life as an animal or human.”

Um… So, I don’t know if all Pixar-watching kids (and adults) are now emotional savants, but I’m starting to think they might be. Or maybe these movies just tap into who we already are: people who know more, love more and are valued more than we might ever know.

Either way, as the phenomenally executed final song of the movie says, “When you wake up early in the morning / Feeling’ sad like so many of us do / Hum a little soul, make life your goal / And surely something’s got to come to you / And say it’s all right / Say it’s all right.”

Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.