An incredibly poignant insight into the human mind, Inside Out is quite literally a rollercoaster of emotions that will take your breath away.
Given their already incredible track record, and the fact that they’ve been in business for almost 30 years, you’d think that Pixar would show some signs of slowing down by now. After all, their partners at Disney are arguably waning these days – unable to properly produce anything of late that isn’t a direct remake or sequel. However, with their typical flair for colourful, imaginative storytelling, Pixar have managed to produce yet another brilliant film that is fresh, inventive and emotional on a whole other level.
Inside Out follows the anthropomorphic emotions inside 11 year-old Riley’s head, as she moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. Riley’s emotions are each personified to represent five integral feelings. The leader of the group, Joy (Amy Poehler) is a perky ray of sunshine, always determined to look at situations in their most positive light – much to the confusion of Riley’s other emotions, Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). So when Riley is faced with the challenging prospects of a new house, a new school and a brand new family dynamic, Joy tries her best to keep Riley happy – insanely, relentlessly happy.
However, Riley soon spirals into chaos and becomes unstable when Joy and Sadness get lost within the inner recesses of her long-term memory – leaving the dubious trio of Anger, Disgust and Fear at the controls. With Riley’s personality crumbling with every minute that goes by without them, Joy and Sadness must try and put their differences aside and work together to get back to headquarters and save Riley from losing herself completely.
The film is both inventive and stupendously clever in the way it uses these personified emotions to explain or prompt Riley’s responses in difficult situations. The way Riley’s inner mind is portrayed is also beautifully creative – with memories presented as shiny, colourful orbs that are stacked on the never-ending shelves that make up her memory. The film is very poignant in the way it depicts memory – and how memories can change or even fade as one grows older. Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind) is perhaps one of the most affecting characters in the film. Despite his ridiculous half-elephant, half-cat appearance, Bing Bong’s place within the bigger picture of the film is so unflinchingly harsh that it really does get the tears flowing. There is a sense of really hard-hitting realism in amongst the fun, which just makes the film all the more thought-provoking and fascinating to watch.
However, for me, the most poignant thing to come out of this movie, is in the way it portrays Sadness. For much of the movie, it is assumed by all the emotions – especially Joy – that Sadness is just an emotion not worth having. She ruins the happy times, she brings people down, and she seems to strike at all the wrong times. But as the movie goes on, Joy comes to realise just how important Sadness is and how necessary she is to keeping Riley sane. Because even though it’s not the most enjoyable emotion, Sadness sometimes has the capacity to make you stronger and can help you to realise when something is wrong. And that’s the real magic of this film – in its all-important lesson that every emotion you feel can be good in some way, and that good or bad, every feeling that you have is what makes you who you are.
There is really very little at fault with this film. The animation is completely flawless and is only made more interesting by the way it fluctuates in different settings of the film – one of the most fascinating examples is when we are given an insight into the abstract imagination of Riley’s mind. The voice cast is also tremendously likeable, with every emotion being given the most believable portrayal by their respective actor. The only possible problem is that because of the film’s relentless marketing campaign, some of the funniest jokes are likely to be ones you’ve already seen in the film’s countless trailers and promos. But, even then, that doesn’t necessarily make them less enjoyable.
Undoubtedly one of Pixar’s best, Inside Out is a beautifully multi-layered film that provides laughs, tears and everything in-between.
Inside Out (2015), directed by Pete Docter, is distributed in the UK by Walt Disney Studios, Certificate U.