Cold Souls, starring Paul Giamatti, Emily Watson, and David Strathairn is a film by first time feature writer/director Sophie Barthes, which tells the story of how to save your soul… just put it in a freezer! In a world where people will do anything in order to de-stress themselves, soul removal is the next step in medical services.

The film is one of the first truly ORIGINAL ideas that we’ve seen on screen for a long time and Barthes is definitely a filmmaker to watch out for!

Check out the good, the bad and the plot below…

The Plot:

Paul Giamatti stars as Paul Giamatti, in the fictional story about an actor who is being plagued with difficulties over his interpretation of Chekhov’s masterpiece “Uncle Vanya.” The weight of the play is weighing him down and through an article in The New Yorker, he discovers a high-tech company which promises to alleviate suffering by extracting souls. Giamatti decides to give it a go seeing as he can always have it put back in after the performance is over. Unfortunately, due to some complications he needs it back sooner, only to find that a soul-trafficking “mule” has stolen his soul and taken it to Russia, were a talentless, soap-opera actress is using it.

The Good:

  • Paul Gimatti: Giamatti turns in a performance that would make Chekov proud. Overall this film had a tendency to feel a little slow and under-developed at times, but Giamatti performance pumped blood to the film and gave it life when at times it could have fallen flat.
  • The Cast: There were so many great performances to back up Giamatti’s. David Strathairn and Emily Watson were both wonderful and helped bring the humor to the film. Dina Korzun did an amazing job of making the entire situation seem real and even threatening at times.
  • The Idea: There is a lot of humor in the idea of “soul removal” being the new Xanax. One of my favorite parts of the film is when we find out that the size of your soul doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts. It’s so rare that he get a truly original idea on screen that is so well thought out, applied to real life, and then taken in completely unexpected places.
  • Dialogue: There were some really clever lines that were so much fun to see delivered by such a great cast.
  • The Dream Sequences: These were some of the more interesting parts of the film, they were eerie and undefined, like most dreams are. They allowed the director to show more of her creativity, I only wish that we could have seen more of this side of her.

The Bad:

  • Non-Quirkiness: They don’t go far enough. It feels like they thought they would go overboard so they pulled it back right when they should have gone all out. If you’re film is about soul removal you might at well go full crazy. Barthes needed to trust her instincts and show us what she’s made of.
  • Pacing: It needed to clip along just a touch faster. Maybe because Barthes is used to making short films she felt daunted by a longer run time. I’m not sure what the reason, but there were a number of times I could feel the film drag and I think that was mainly due to, again, them not going all out with some of the scenes in which they could have.


My main complaint about this film is that it had a great original idea behind it, great performances, a great script and overall a really interesting look to it, but I felt like it was only 70% of what the film could have been. It seemed like because Barthes was a first time writer/director she pulled back a bit in order to not go over the top, and make something a bit “safer,” but with something like this, I wanted her to take her style and run with it. She has all the tools, she just needs to realize it.

Since this was only her first feature film, maybe this was her just getting her feet wet. If so, I can’t wait to see what she dives into next.

Rating: 6.75/10

Check out the film, in theaters now and find out what Giamatti and Barthes had to say about the film at LA Film Festival.

Watch trailer below…

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