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Film / Heart and Souls

A 1993 film directed by Ron Underwood and starring Robert Downey, Jr..

In 1959, four people riding on a bus and Hal (David Paymer), the bus driver, get killed in a crash. The bus crashed into a car with a woman going into labor. Hal ascends to Heaven while the other four get stuck anchored to the newborn baby. The baby is named "Thomas," and only he can see the four of them. After seven years of being his invisible friends, their effect on him is noticed and Thomas is about to be sent into a psychiatric hospital, so they resolve to become invisible to him so they don't ruin his life.

Come 1993, Thomas is a liquidator at a bank with the ghosts always watching. Then, one day, Hal comes back and informs them that their time is up, and they have only a few days to resolve all of their unfinished business.

The four ghosts are:

  • Harrison Winslow (Charles Grodin): A singer who couldn't bring up the courage to audition.
  • Penny Washington (Alfre Woodard): A woman who never got to say goodbye to her kids on the way to work.
  • Milo Peck (Tom Sizemore): A thief who was killed before he got the chance to go straight.
  • Julia (Kyra Sedgewick): A waitress who let her true love get away.

This movie provides examples of

  • Afterlife Express: The bus.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The ghosts were supposed to have ascended long before the bus driver eventually comes back for them. They each need to resolve their Unfinished Business so the bus can transport them "on" because their souls are needed for new babies.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Harrison and Milo for Thomas.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Julia, Penny, Harrison, and Milo are all killed in a bus crash that Thomas's parents barely escape themselves. Thomas is born moments later at the scene of the accident.
  • Closed Circle: The ghosts are cosmically tied to Thomas and can only remain a certain distance from him without being pulled back.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Premise of the movie.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: What leads to the accident that kills the four people.
  • Empathic Environment: It immediately starts to rain on Julia and Thomas when she discovers John died many years ago and she won't be able to see or speak to him.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: The trolley bus driver fakes engine trouble as a way of delaying looking for the missing souls, so they will have time to complete their unfinished business. It should be noted that the being he is attempting to fool with this ploy is God.
  • The Fifties / The '60s: The setting during Thomas's birth and childhood.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The four bus passengers died as strangers but become very close as they spend decades together in the afterlife.
  • Four Is Death: Four innocent bus passengers are killed because the driver wasn't paying attention to the road.
  • The Four Loves: The ghosts each represent a different kind of love based on their relationship with Thomas or their final tasks: Harrison is fatherly love, Milo is friendly love, Penny is unconditional love, and Julia is romantic love.
  • Ghostly Goals:
    • Penny needs to find her children, who became orphans after her death.
    • Milo needs to return the valuable stamps he stole to the rightful owner.
    • Harrison needs to overcome his stage fright and sing in public.
    • Julia needs to find her long lost boyfriend John and tell him she always loved him.
  • Grand Theft Me: Julia and Milo embarrass Thomas during a board meeting when they take over his body. The ghosts threaten to forcibly take over Thomas's body again if he does not willingly help them.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Bob Newhart is seen in the 1959 section (played by his actual son!).
  • I See Them Too: A woman in the psychiatric ward at the hospital is the only other person besides Thomas who can see the ghosts.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The ghosts. For most of his life, Thomas believed the ghosts he knew as a child were imaginary friends. He is shocked to find out they were all once real people.
  • Offscreen Afterlife: We only ever see the five dead people in this world.
  • Psychopomp: Hal
  • Reincarnation: The reason why it's suddenly urgent for the ghosts to finish their business—they're needed because new babies are being born soon.
  • Sharing a Body: The ghosts borrow Thomas' body to resolve their unfinished business.
  • Unfinished Business: Each of the ghosts has some. It's pretty much the main plot of the film.
  • Visible Invisibility: The ghosts are invisible to the other characters (apart from Thomas), but the audience can see them just fine.