Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out is everything you’ve heard it is and so much more. Inventive, stunningly-animated, ambitious, imaginative and beautifully heartfelt, the film reaffirms Pixar as the masters of modern day animation.

After years of expertly massaging and manipulating our emotions it seems like the logical next step for Pixar was to characterise these feelings into living breathing characters. Well Bravo Pixar. You’ve broken me again. Thank you.

The story takes place mostly inside the mind of an 11-year old girl, Riley Anderson. Inside, there lives five emotions that guide Riley through everyday life. It’s very reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise’s control deck. There’s the leader, Joy (Amy Poehler), together with Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). It’s here that I should mention that each of these voice actors are perfectly cast. Maybe the world needs far less pessimism and cynicism, and maybe having a healthy dose of Joy (who is obviously crafted from Poehler’s Leslie Knope character) wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

With Joy firmly in command, Riley’s life seems to be ship shape and running like clockwork for the pre-teen. But Joy is an unreliable narrator, who despite her best intentions, sugar coats events and dominates Riley’s cerebrum. When Riley’s family are forced to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, it triggers a series of events that end with Joy and Sadness being banished to the outer reaches of Riley’s mind.

It is here where writer/director Pete Docter’s genius is even further cemented. Remember this was the filmmaker who helped give us Toy Story, Monsters Inc and Up. While in isolation the film beautifully animates and simplifies a child’s cognitive psychology. As Joy and Sadness attempt to reunite with their colleagues, Docter does a magnificent job of breaking down abstract reasoning, long term memory, imagination and core memories for younger audiences to understand.

While the vivid tapestry of resplendent colours will appease audiences of all ages, it’s the screenplay that demands much of the well deserved praise and admiration. The film will undoubtedly help adults discuss with younger children how our feelings work and why it’s important to understand the connection between joy and sadness.

It is a wonderful idea to distinguish each emotion separately for comic relief and dramatic purposes, but the power of the film comes from its message of understanding that our emotions are not separate from one another. We need to allow ourselves to accept and feel sadness. Joy and sadness can be felt simultaneously. It is all part of a healthy mindset.

The film elegantly paints a picture of a child suffering from what appears to be the very early stages of depression. After a prolonged absence of both Joy and Sadness in her life, Riley’s world starts to change. The film’s colour palette becomes desaturated, leaving everything awash in dull grey tones. With an imbalance of emotions, Riley goes numb. She can no longer feel anything.

This is what Pixar does so marvellously time and time again. There’s a deep, dark and rich poignancy to Inside Out that will leave a resounding mark on every audience member, young or old. With grace and beauty, Pixar have done an exceptional job at answering the question, “What goes on inside our heads?” 

I very much look forward to placing this film in my Top 10 of 2015 list. It has well and truly earned its place.

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