Movie Review | Inside Out
Movie Summary: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school. (IMDb)
Pixar films have developed a reputation – deserved or not – for containing at least one scene or sequence that feels intended to move the audience to tears. Think of Up’s opening ten minutes or so; or the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3.
Inside Out may feel to some like Pixar decided to make an entire movie that feels like those scenes do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just a warning for those who do find those scenes difficult as this is one Pixar film that parents might have difficulty explaining to young children.
Mainly, because the film centres around Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias), a young girl who struggles with her emotions after her family moves away from where she grew up. In effect, it’s a movie about a child suffering with depression, and is as tough to watch as that might sound.
The main difference here, and what makes it a Pixar film, is that we get to see the personifications of her emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear – and how their conflicting behaviours affect Riley in the ‘real’ world.
We spend most of the time with Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and the intrinsic clash of those two particular emotions, even if they aren’t actually antagonistic towards each other – it’s just in their respective natures.
The pair wind up removed from Riley’s ‘control room’ and are forced to work their way back, coming to an understanding of how much both are needed as they go. This works brilliantly to show how mental health can present itself outwardly, as Riley struggles to feel anything with neither joy or sadness in her life.
This does allow for some humour, as the remaining three emotions try to cope in their absence, but it’s Anger (Lewis Black) who usually wins out. He might be amusing as a character, and some of his reactions are genuinely hilarious, but it’s tempered by what we see when Riley lashes out at her family, even though she is powerless to react in any other way.
Mental health remains one of the least appreciated and still most misunderstood problems in the world today, as it’s not like catching a virus or getting an infection. It’s when something inside a person – as in who they are, not their body – just breaks, often for no external reason, and they suffer just as much as anyone with a physical condition.
I think Inside Out portrays this well, and I’d hope that it would make parents more aware of their own children’s mental health, rather than blaming any difficulties on behavioural issues being a ‘phase’. There’s no one direct thing that causes Riley’s issues, and many children may not suffer from the same issues as her if put in the same situation.
It’s not a virus, or germs, or bacteria, that cause her to change and for her life to suffer. It’s her own personal issues in her head that cause the problem because of what is happening in her life and she can’t be blamed for it. It’s accurate to real life mental health issues, and part of what makes Inside Out such a distinctive film, as there is no actual antagonist or threat for the audience to root against.
It’s about a little girl struggling with her life and trying to cope as best she can.
Inside Out might be a tough film to watch, but it’s definitely worthy of your time. Few movies cover this kind of subject matter, so this doesn’t feel like a ‘typical’ story that you might expect from Pixar and it might result in some difficult conversations as a result. Definitely something that will stay with you long after the credits are over.