Children can be highly emotional at times. When you’re small, it seems to magnify the size of everything, be it physical objects or the issues of life. Tripping over your feet as an adult, though it may seem embarrassing, doesn’t compare to other issues like making sure you have enough money to pay the bills. In essence, you need to have lived long enough have to garnered enough life experience to know what issues will affect you in the long-term. It’s important that we, as adults, take that into consideration whenever we are dealing with issues that children may be having. It’s also important that when we have discussions surrounding the welfare of children, that those same children are included, and I can’t think of a better film to deliver on that premise than Inside Out.
We follow the 5 main emotions of 11 year old Riley Andersen as they struggle to cope with her family moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. These emotions- Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust- are an over simplification of the vast spectrum of emotions experience by humanity (and that’s okay). This isn’t some kind of documentary about psychology, it’s a children’s movie with easily digestible themes. Indeed, it wouldn’t be long before the core cast of Inside Out were being used in classrooms and therapists offices as a way of simplifying the discussion so that younger minds could digest information more easily. In this regard, 5 turns out to be an ideal number of emotions as it stops the conversation from being too weighed down but it also assists with the narrative of the film. After all, Inside Out is first and foremost a children’s film designed to entertain. It only takes 5 emotions for this story to work and they get a gradual introduction over the first 10 minutes. We are also introduced to their human – Riley – and her parents though it is through the eyes of the emotions. Riley is a character but she is also a vessel through which the narrative takes place.
This narrative is set into motion when Joy and Sadness find themselves accidentally transferred from the main hub of Riley’s mind to her long-term memory storage. This leaves Riley with only Fear, Anger, and Disgust which some may see as “negative” emotions. As a result, Riley becomes more and more depressed until the remaining emotions are unable to make her feel anything at all. As someone who has been coping with depression for quite some time, I recognise how reductive this depiction is, however it also really resonated with me. I felt like the crew who worked on this project understood, at least on a surface level, how depression could feel and that they delivered it with a certain level of respect. I’ve been finding it difficult to write this review due to some unforeseen circumstances in my personal life this week, but also because this film hits me so deeply that I find it difficult to watch, let alone write about. The word “triggered” has practically been ruined by people who want to use it to belittle people they deem as lesser than them, but its original meaning still stands. Inside Out, on a particularly bad day, could genuinely trigger a depressive or anxious episode in me. This is not a criticism, in fact it’s far from it. If a film is causing you to have feelings, then that film is doing its job effectively.
This is the 15th feature film from PIXAR Studios and it’s becoming clear that their animation has developed a certain style. The unique worlds that they create have often lacked in humans but the people here have a similar look to those in a previous film- Brave– and to those in the films that would follow. In the same way that Dreamworks characters have very distinctive eyebrows, the PIXAR characters have very expressive eyes. They also have regular human proportions which, I suppose, helps it to feel less like a cartoon and more like an extension of our own world. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does feel like it lacks the creativity of earlier PIXAR projects. They were once pushing the boundaries of what computer animation was capable of, but now, while still kings in their field, it feels like they’ve settled for consistency. There was a two year gap between Monsters University and Inside Out and we’ve never had to wait that long again. There were mere months between Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur and then a year between each following release (2017 got 2!). I know that this is due to them refining their process and hiring more staff which means that they can work on several projects at once, but this is the last of PIXAR’s films that I’ve re-watched. Inside Out is a wonderful film and a heck of a conversation starter, but it might be the last time that a PIXAR film felt like PIXAR.
Until Next Time…
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