I wasn’t prepared for this at all. Stories about the supposed ‘deep’ message that Inside Out was supposed to evoke was unusual given that it was an animated film but my mind somehow latched on to the idea that this was a film that was quietly introspective. I had thought this was going to be a film to be slowly digested like an age-old cheese. Boy I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had tears, I cried *manly tears* okay, even before the movie even began. A cute short film Lava about the vacant loneliness of paradise in the form of a volcano’s longing for another volcano’s company and love seems ridiculous when expressed in text, but gives the first unexpected emotional connection. But then little would you know that Inside Out, mundane as it’s poster and title may suggest, will prove to be the most gut-wrenching, heart warming, deeply innovative Disney experience ever. Oh and did I mention, it’s also the best Disney film ever. Period.
Disney’s repetoire of films has always tried to keep up with current social paradigms and views of the world. Disney also knows that animation films are not tied, as it were in the past, to childish themes and fodder for kids. This is not to say that Disney hasn’t been including mature themes in the past. Mulan for example, brought across the idea that only when one is able to let go of social customs and archetypes placed on them( gender stereotypes for Mulan), can she truly lead a fufilling life. Yet, this message was toned down for one reason or another. But recent films like Wreck-It Ralph explored, with a more direct and head-on approach, its themes like choosing a different path from where you were ‘destined’ to go. And this shift to disarm viewers, to provocate, to stimulate thinking and challenge social norms, has culminated in the wildly emotional and heartfelt Inside Out.
Inside Out tells the story of young girl Riley at age 11 and how she deals with various aspects and crises in life. The interesting thing is that we see Riley as a make-up of her emotions, almost charting Riley’s journey in life through her internal psyche. There’s joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear; All of which are embodied by animated characters that live and interact inside Riley. The movie even goes into detail to show how each experience, depending on how it makes Riley feel, is encapsuled into a ball that is represented by the colour associated with the emotion. Delving deeper into this imaginative world of the ‘mind’, experiences also make up different aspects of life that mean alot to Riley like family, hockey, friends and being goofy. It really is a joy to see that the people behind the film had created a thorough view into the interior of a mind, and added a whole lot of funny, ironic dialogue to balance it’s dense material.
Trying to balance what might seem like the whole weight of life on the little shoulders of Riley is exactly what every teen experiences. This confusing mixture of emotions and obstacles in life seem destined to bring us down for no reason, as the time between being in the comforts of being a child and the fully fledged independence of being an adult causes Riley, and any other teenager, to feel caught in a space which belongs to neither. Inside Out doesn’t bring about this through some contrived plot mechanism but instead strikes home this crises in the most relatable way. Literally. Riley is caught up in a whirlwind when she’s forced to move from hometown Minnesota to San Franciso where pizza is ruined by brocoli and pineapples and school becomes a high-pressure cooker for the insecure Riley. Riley’s displacement from her home, her old life, her comforts and friends and belongings, has realistically thrown her off her rails.
Simultaneously, the emotions Joy and Sadness are also launched out of Headquarters into the vast mindscape of Riley’s mind when they try to fix a core memory when Sadness fills a memory ball with a tinge of melancholy. Now Joy and Sadness embark on a journey to find their way back amidst the disarray that Riley is currently experiencing as different core islands of her personality start to break down. It’s interesting to consider that what Joy and Sadness and the other emotions do is not necessarily affecting how Riley feels, because her struggles are a natural order of growing up. The emotions, apart from simply being there to add sass and fun to the screen, are actually a mirror to Riley herself. They aren’t controlling Riley; They are Riley. The journey through the mindscape to find a way back home is a metamorphic representation of her actual life journey.
“Crying Helps Me Slow Down And Obsess Over The Weight Of Life’s Problems”
Inside Out takes the childish wonder of animation and the grit and verve from the issues it deals with to create something that appeals to both children and adults alike. For example, when Joy and Sadness meet Bong (Riley’s imaginary friend), he exudes a certain pinkish charm about him that will immediately grab the children’s attention. But when he sacrifices himself in order to let Joy propel out of the dark abyss that is Memory Dump, the more perceptive viewers will note the poignancy of the scene. Bong was a construct of Riley and how it helped her to find joy and meaning in her adoslescent years. But life, as always, has taken many turns and forward leaps and Riley would need to find for herself a true source of meaning and happiness in life and can no longer to depend on a figurative comfort Bong provides.
“Take her to the moon for me, Joy”
With the movie building up the mounting tension to it’s climatic register, the subtle messages along the way culminate in the film’s final idea. The emotional bildungsroman(coming of age) is achieved when Riley makes her choice and gains an emotional enlightenment just as her emotions have done as well. Inside Out gives off a certain bundle of joy with it’s lovely characters and beautiful fluorescent graphics. Aside from fogging your eyes with streams of tears, and between the unpainted canvas of Riley’s infant mind to the beautiful complexities of teenage Riley, Inside Out is a psychoanalytic tour de force that tells you that sadness is just as important and vital an emotion as happiness. So go ahead and bawl out as much as you want, the kids will understand.
Oh and stay for the credits, it’ll be worth it 🙂 The soundtrack’s pretty awesome too, I really can’t describe how it’s so sentimental…*holds back tears*…it just brings you back to your childhood 🙂 FYI, I lost count of the number of times i cried during this film, no Disney film has ever made me unleash the Pacific Ocean like that.