** Spoiler alert!
The movie opens with our lead character, Riley, as a baby and there was one emotion in her mind: Joy, a cheerful blue-haired figure. Joy thought she was alone, but when baby Riley started crying, we know there is another emotion in the room: enter Sadness. Over the years, three other emotions joined the picture: Fear, Anger and Disgust. These emotions live inside Riley’s mind aka the Headquarters and control how she acts and reacts via a control panel. Fear helps Riley avoids danger, Anger helps Riley to throw tantrums and Disgust helps Riley to hate broccoli.
When Riley’s parents decided to moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, the emotions have to figure out whether they will like the city, the school or their new small house? Things started out fine, but when Sadness “accidentally” touched Riley’s core memory and turned it into blue (the code for sad), Joy tried to stop and failed. In the process Joy and Sadness get sucked out of the Headquarters and into Riley’s long-term memory area. Can these two make it back to the Headquarters before Riley functions permanently without two vital emotions?
Inside Out is one of my 2015’s most awaited movie. When I first heard the synopsis, I said “no way, this sounds clever!”. Sure the emotions look cute and delivered great gags, but beyond that Pixar’s magical dust, Inside Out is also a clever film. Many have stated what’s the takeaway from this movie and even I took some time to process the question.
Inside Out tells a simple story about a young girl who “acts out” when she moved to a new town. The synopsis is plain and the climax may seem weak: what’s so special about two characters who race against time to fix a problem? We have heard of that one before. Meanwhile the climax took place inside a bus when Riley decided not to run away to Minnesota and returned back home: wait, is that it? However, there is more than meets the eye.
When I watched Riley “acting out” I failed to notice that she was slowly becoming depressed. The topic of depression in young kids sound morbid, but doesn’t mean they are immune to it. The movie’s hints were too subtle for anyone to catch it at first. Of course writers Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen have done a great job, they substitute the depression angle with the “accident” the two emotions created. We are not watching an 11-year-old girl becoming depressed instead we watch two bubbly animation figures running around this colourful labyrinth and forgotten that the emotions and Riley are actually connected. I also appreciate the movie’s portrayal about depression; they don’t offer a short-cut solution and allow Riley to process all emotions in time. This is apparent towards the end where we see memory orbs made up of blue and gold colours glide into the long-term memory store.
The psychological aspects in this film are brilliant and educating. We learned many things from the core memory to long-term memory. From repressed memories stored in the subconscious to the forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong, who looks like Dr Seus’ Horton Hears a Who!. Speaking of Bing Bong, I wondered about him while watching and then it hit me: he didn’t make it to the headquarters as Joy promised. The pink elephant is a metaphor of old memory that needs to be forgotten. As Riley grew up she will make new memories and she doesn’t need to cling on to the past. What a bittersweet scene, am I right?
The queen of comedy, Amy Poehler, is the voice of Joy and she is amazing. Her vocal performance was lively and energetic at first but changed into a more calmer note in the end. Phyllis Smith as Sadness is a nice fit, her melancholic tone is amusing and sympathetic but never irritating. Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling are sensational as the other respective emotions. It’s clear the voice casting were carefully selected since it translates very well on the screen.
A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a picture detailing Pixar’s chronological movies. Starting with Pixar, 1995: “what if toys had feelings?” then to Pixar, 2004: “what if superheroes had feelings?” until Pixar, 2015: “what if feelings had feelings?”… Did you see the similarity? Yes, it’s perfectly alright to process your feelings, Inside Out taught me that.