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Inside Out - Film Review

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by Sam (subscribe)
Freelance writer, author and dreamer.
Published June 21st 2015
★★★★☆ - Pixar shows the joy and sadness of growing up
As a fan of most animated films, I knew that I was going to enjoy Disney/Pixar's Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter, before I even walked into the cinema. But when I came out I realised it was more than film to enjoy and more than a fun film for kids. Inside Out is a film that provokes thought, reimagines how we think and act, and emphasises the importance of growing up.

Inside Out is preceded by the short musical film Lava James Ford Murphy. Much like the recent Disney animated shorts, which mainly feature a variation of a male something and a female something finding each other and finding love, Lava is about a male volcano's search for love. Several shorts after the initial stand out, Paperman, this short falls flat in the repetition of plot and theme (already tired by the one film which was about two umbrellas searching from love) drew more confused muttering from the audience than actual appreciation. Lava is frankly forgettable in comparison to the simplicity and beauty of the main feature.

Pixar's films are known for being deeply emotional. The quality of their recent works have been among the best animated films of the decade, but there is a depth and a poignancy to Inside Out that is unparalleled by any of their recent works. It captures the struggles of being a child and of growing up from the most unique and heart touching angle.

inside out joy sadness
Inside Out follows Joy and Sadness in their quest to navigate Riley's mind

Inside Out follows the life of an eleven-year-old girl called Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) in the aftermath of her move from Minnesota to San Francisco. More specifically, the film follows the 'little voices' inside her head, five emotions who guide her thoughts and actions. These emotions man the control room of Riley's mind, a vast and ever-changing world influenced by her memories.

Joy (Amy Poehler), the unanimous leader of Riley's emotions, has dominated Riley's control panel of short- and mid-term memories for the past eleven years and feels the most connected to Riley. All of Riley's 'core memories' (specific memories that have shaped Riley's personality by way of 'islands' on the edge of long-term memory) are ones Joy considers as hers, ones that she has directly led Riley to form. In the aftermath of a drastic move (that hasn't gone quite as well as anticipated), Joy has done her best to keep Riley as positive as possible.

inside out pixar disney
L-R, Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, Sadness

Joy's job is to keep Riley happy, Disgust's (Mindy Kaling) is to stop her from being 'poisoned' (by way of broccoli, dead rats and poor fashion choices). Fear (Bill Hader) assesses situations to ensure that Riley is safe at all times (spontaneous combustion and being called on by the teacher are among his worst-case-scenarios). Anger (Lewis Black) is quick to flare and quick to burn, and his job is to make sure Riley fights back.

As for Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Joy doesn't know what she does.

So when Riley forms a core memory that deviates from Joy's plan of happiness (a blue-tinged memory courtesy of Sadness), Joy panics and tries to stop it from forming an island. In the process, she accidentally drags herself, Sadness and all Riley's core memories through to long-term memory. Together, she and Sadness have to find their way to headquarters in order to put the core memories back before she loses these important aspects of her personality.

Of course there is the added problem of Disgust, Fear and Anger trying to hold the fort without Joy's leadership).

Each emotion is portrayed so accurately, being both relatable and amusing as they flit around Riley's mind. The film captures the intricacies of we act and react to different things, splitting Riley's internal monologue between her emotions and creating a dialogue between them. This play between the emotions (and at select points, the emotions of other characters) is fresh and sweet as they try to create the best world for their human.

There is no way to be subtle about the message of the film, not with the personification of Joy and Sadness. Their journey back to headquarters is the most obvious to explore the conflict between the emotions and the importance of all of them. Inside Out explores the difficulties of growing up, of moving and of understanding the importance of all your emotions.

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