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Cold Souls (2009)


Average Rating: 6.3/10
Reviews Counted: 122
Fresh: 90
Rotten: 32

Critics Consensus: Straddling existential drama and surrealist comedy, Sophie Barthes debut feature is beautifully shot and full of inventive quandaries.

Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 36
Fresh: 28
Rotten: 8

Critics Consensus: Straddling existential drama and surrealist comedy, Sophie Barthes debut feature is beautifully shot and full of inventive quandaries.


Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 28,960


Movie Info

Writer/director Sophie Barthes crafts this metaphysical tragicomedy, which straddles the line between reality and fantasy, set in a world where souls are extracted from humans and traded as commodites. Paul Giamatti is an anxious New Yorker who finds the answer to his deep-rooted malaise after stumbling upon an article about a high-tech company that claims to have found a solution to human suffering. By deep-freezing souls, claims the company, they can give their customers a life free from fear, … More

PG-13 (for nudity and brief strong language)
Drama , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
Sophie Barthes
In Theaters:
Mar 2, 2010
Box Office:
IDP/Samuel goldwyn Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Cold Souls

All Critics (122) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (90) | Rotten (32) | DVD (1)

The credible production design impresses, the camerawork offers an exquisite chill and Giamatti is in his pomp.

Full Review… | November 13, 2009
Time Out
Top Critic

It's comical, yes, but glum and brooding, too, a wintry waltz through acting, underground commerce and metaphysics.

Full Review… | September 30, 2009
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

These are all very surreal, inventive ideas, heightened by the dreamlike cinematography from Barthes' partner, Andrij Parekh; the scenes shot in St. Petersburg, for example, are simultaneously gauzy and bleak.

Full Review… | September 18, 2009
Associated Press
Top Critic

Giamatti stammers and futzes and self-loathes with the best of 'em, and his endearing persona and droopy-dog face can move the film along even when the narrative can't.

Full Review… | September 4, 2009
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Peppered with ingenious twists of imagination, Cold Souls walks a tightrope between intellectual slapstick and edgy social commentary.

Full Review… | August 27, 2009
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

Inspired by one of [director] Barthes' dreams, Cold Souls has the kind of twisted but clever self-awareness of Being John Malkovich.

Full Review… | August 21, 2009
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Eccentric without ever becoming unduly whimsical, Sophie Barthes' surrealism-lite "Cold Souls" (which she tenders a co-film-by with Andrij Parekh) pirouettes within the same school as Charlie Kaufman's dance floor.

Full Review… | April 8, 2014

By the time Barthes' screenplay descends into a psychodrama of infancy, we're beyond caring.

Full Review… | August 29, 2011
East Bay Express

Fanciful tale is fun for grownups; won't appeal to kids.

Full Review… | December 30, 2010
Common Sense Media

Barthes' execution is flat, philosophically empty and mostly boring. But you can't call it soulless (no, not even when it's a zinger of a pun to finish the review with).

Full Review… | October 21, 2010

Barthes introduces a captivating concept provoking a number of philosophical questions, but never answers them making the film unsettling and difficult to enjoy.

Full Review… | August 12, 2010

The nature and value of the human soul is thoughtfully and humorously explored.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Matt's Movie Reviews

Sophie Barthes' debut feature is a surreal blend of witty comedy and reflective %u2014 please excuse the expression %u2014 soul searching.

Full Review… | June 15, 2010

Feels like "Being John Malkovich" but funny nonetheless. Paul Chambers, CNN.

Full Review… | March 12, 2010

If you could buy Cold Souls in flatpack form from IKEA, when you laid out all the parts on the living room floor they'd look a lot like the components for a Charlie Kaufman movie.

Full Review… | December 1, 2009
SFX Magazine

You'd say that Cold Souls is strange, but strange doesn't begin to describe this darkly humorous, concept film.

Full Review… | November 26, 2009

Cold Souls is imitation Kaufman, written and directed by newcomer Sophie Barthes, who makes no effort to hide the source of her inspiration.

Full Review… | November 26, 2009
The Age (Australia)

The result is a deliciously deadpan piece of absurdism with some unexpectedly poignant touches.

Full Review… | November 26, 2009
Sydney Morning Herald

In Cold Souls, it is time for more metaphysical mucking about with an actor playing a pretentiously remixed version of his real self.

Full Review… | November 26, 2009
Herald Sun (Australia)

There's added appeal thanks to Barthes' silly but fun film via the outstanding cinematography by her collaborator, Andrij Parekh, whose arty lighting and careful framing make the film a visual treat.

Full Review… | November 26, 2009
Courier Mail (Australia)

Barthes' first film indicates a fearless, imaginative writer/director with a great deal more to offer audiences with her future projects; if Cold Souls isn't always easy to warm to, it certainly lights the fire of a talent worth watching.

Full Review… | November 26, 2009

An uneasy mix of comedy and ideas, which flatters both itself and its audience that it's smarter and wryer than it really is.

Full Review… | November 24, 2009
FILMINK (Australia)

Much of cinema is so predictable these days. Cold Souls isn't.

Full Review… | November 22, 2009
At the Movies (Australia)

Smart and funny, it's an amusing showcase for a great idea and the terrific Giamatti.

Full Review… | November 22, 2009
Empire Magazine Australasia

I love the bizarreness of the premise about a man who feels so heavy by the weight of his soul he puts it into cold storage, and although Cold Souls doesn't quite gel in the final analysis, there is much about this dream-inspired film that is wonderful

Full Review… | November 20, 2009
Urban Cinefile

Cold Souls is odd and gloomy but the deadpan comedy and introspective musings are engaging and Giamatti's tour de force is worth the price of admission.

Full Review… | November 13, 2009
Daily Express

Audience Reviews for Cold Souls

Another interesting idea lags under the weight of its own cinematic soul. In a Kaufmanesque concept (see Being John Malkovich), Paul Giamatti plays a film version of himself (and gee, he's pretty good at it... ha ha ha).

As we enter into the world of first time writer/director Sophie Barthes we see Giamatti struggling to find the right "voice" for Uncle Vanya (and somehow I wonder why it is that Chekov still gets all the juice on the boards... if I see another revival of Vanya or Cherry Orchard I'm going to slit my wrists or read some Russian Poetry, whichever kills me first!).

Of course the above little asides are the kind of wry, sarcastic humor that this pseudo satire cashes in on, but for me, the satiric moments were too few and came only after slogging through some tedious bits of unimaginative setup and scenes that were meant to be funny (in that satiric kind of way) but simply weren't as far as I'm concerned.

The fresh idea of the film (which I wish could have been better handled) has to do with the ability to extract the soul from a human body (and replace it with someone else's if desired). Giamatti perceives that he is so weighed down by the heaviness of his own soul that he decides to replace his with the soul of a Russian Poet (all the better to get inside his role of Vanya, he surmises). From this premise the film flitters around, allowing for a nice bit of satire when the Russian mob gets involved in the soul selling business; but while watchable, I was neither grinning from the dark humor, nor glued to the chair by any kind of drama. This yin/yang of drama/dark comedy is at odds with itself as some of the more absurd moments derail any dramatic value.

Similarly Barthes doesn't seem quite sure which route to take - the first half seems serious (and fails as a dramatic engine), while the second half, and especially when the film moves to St. Petersburg, seems much more tongue in cheek (and it is here that the moments of inventive dark satire occur).

I really wanted to enjoy this film and am going to give it a passing grade just for the concept alone - but as the closing credits rolled I sat back and wondered at how much more could have been said and how so many of the satiric moments could have either been better evolved or left on the cutting room floor. At least there weren't three sisters sitting in a broken down manor house saying that they simply must go to Moscow.

paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

If you mix vintage Woody Allen with some of the works of Charlie Kaufman (especially Being John Malkovich), then you basically get this movie...and that's not a bad thing, especially since this film didn't feel like a total rip-off.

Actor Paul Giamatti plays an actor named Paul Giamatti who, while rehearsing for Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, feels his soul become burdened under the weight of the material. To remedy the situation, he goes to a company that extracts and stores people's stores. You can also swap out your soul for someone else's if you so desire. Now soulless, Giamatti is able to get through the play, but now he also finds life without his own soul more intoelrable than before.

He tries to go get his soul back, but through a snafu, his soul has been taken and sold on the black market and is now being used by a Russian soap opera actress in St. Petersburg. With the help of the "soul mule" Giamatti goes to Russia to reclaim what's his, in a new twist on the term soul searching.

This is a wild concept, and, though the end result is pretty polarizing, I found it to be a lot of fun. It is a very cold and clinical film, and while there is humor, it is extremely dry and dark in nature. There are a couple of parts that are legitimately laugh out loud funny, but the bulk of the humor is very offbeat.

What keeps the film from beign a total rip-off is that things are more accessible here than they are with some od Kaufman's works. Sure, there's his influence on the material, but it definitely holds up as being it's own kind of thing. It also helps that the actors give some wonderful performances, especially Giamatti who has to portray himself with and without his own soul (and yes, there are differences, no matter how subtle). David Strathairn is also fun as the head of the soul extraction company, and for me it was nice to see Lauren Ambrose as the doctor's assistant, though I wish she'd had more screentime and had mroe to do. Emily Watson adds some weight to the proceedings in a small but important role as Paul's wife, but for me, the two standouts other than Giamatti are Dina Korzun as the mule and Katheryn Winnick as the Russian actress.

All in all, this is an enjoyable and really well done film. I may be overly enthusiastic, but I can't help it. The film just really spoke to me, and was just the thing I needed to watch after a sleepless night before a super long day at work.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Fun one time through. I feel like they could have done more with it (too bad it wasn't written by Charlie Kaufman).

Curtis Lilly

Super Reviewer

A good movie with good performances by Paul Giamatti (always dependable), David Strathairn, and Emily Watson. I liked the idea of the film, but it becomes kind of a Charlie Kaufman rip off after awhile. Well made and written, but comes off as just "meh" by the end.

Tim Sigur

Super Reviewer

Cold Souls Quotes

Paul Giamatti:
My soul is a chickpea?
– Submitted by Rurh E (23 months ago)

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