The cinema at the moment seems to be a constant conveyor belt of the same material – Marvel comic movies, sequels (or the next in a long franchise), reboots of an old idea or even a combination of these (Fantatsic Four for example). It therefore seems quite ironic to me that an original and interesting film concept has arrived in cinemas, disguised as a kids’ film!
The latest offering from Pixar (it’s 15th), Inside Out continues to build on the studio’s successful formula – make the film appeal to children, but also to grown ups and not just those being dragged there by their kids! In my view, Inside Out achieves this superbly and is a genuinely lovely movie for all ages and my favourite of all the Pixar films.
The story focusses on a young 11 year-old girl Riley and her parents, a happy, loving family from Minnesota, where she has grown up with a love of ice skating. However, we also see her life from a very different perspective – from inside her mind – a place where our everyday human emotions, Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger are given colourful form. Between the five of them they control Riley’s life on a moment by moment basis via a console in the HQ of her mind, with each new memory created becoming a coloured marble, which at the end of each day are sent to storage in her long-term memory. We see how the more memories she makes the more facets of her personality she creates, in the form of childlike theme park-style islands stretching out across her mind.
Up until this point, Joy (the fantastic Amy Poehler) has been the captain of the bunch,ensuring Riley’s life is as happy as possible, with one wonderful memory after another from the moment she was born. She feels a special bond with her as she was the first emotion in her mind. However, once the family move to San Francisco and her father is more distracted by work, it seems that the other four are going to suddenly be much busier and when Joy and Sadness find themselves lost miles from HQ in Riley’s long-term memory, they must work together to get back home, while Fear, Disgust and Anger desperately man the emotional controls of this 11 year-old child!
It may sound a bit silly, but it’s such a clever idea. We are all unique individuals, thinking and reacting differently to one another and as we grow so do our emotions, as life becomes less childlike fun and starts to branch out in to many different emotions. We change as we grow up and that is exactly what is happening here, which is something children will be able to relate to, as well as adults.
Children will certainly love the emotion characters. They are colourful, lively and each very different. Anger is always literally blowing his fiery top, while Fear is seemingly gripping on to his sanity by his fingertips, due to being scared so easily, as Disgust rolls her eyes at them all! They make you smile and the world inside Riley’s mind is visually incredible. It’s so much brighter than the real world of San Francisco, which I imagine is a very deliberate choice.
Adults will also enjoy the story and pick up on the deeper meanings too, as the story so skillfully brings moments to the screen that are very real to life. A great example is the role of Sadness (Phyllis Smith). She is quite shy and lacking confidence and has a habit of wanting to touch the marble memories, much to Joy’s horror, as by doing so she turns them to blue (her colour), making them sad memories from then on for Riley. It’s so true that events and circumstances in our lives often change our perception of our memories – a time or moment we used to remember with fondness can suddenly become tinged with sadness, whether the loss of a beloved home in which you were once happy, a family member or a close friend. It’s natural that certain memories shift as a result. We all go through this all the time and yet I don’t think it’s been conveyed quite so perfectly, eloquently and beautifully as it is here.
The adventure Joy and Sadness face together is also very clever, as ultimately those are the two overriding emotions within all of us. Sometimes one is in control and sometimes it’s a combination of the two and ultimately sadness is just as important to our emotional lives as joy. It’s quite a deep concept but I loved how wonderfully expressed these points were in the film, as we realise alongside the characters that Joy and Sadness are not as opposite as they think.
Also in true Pixar fashion (I’m thinking Up! in particular) this is quite a moving film, which by the end did have me wiping away a few tears. It may be labelled a movie for kids, but you cannot deny the powerful effect it has on the emotions of adults too. It touches on loss in very real ways that children will relate to and how people and memories fade from your life and all these are explored in an intelligent, entertaining and moving way. With the same director as Up! (Peter Docter) I shouldn’t be surprised that it tugs at the heartstrings.
However, it’s not all sadness, as there are plenty of laughs here too, as we see the embodiment of our emotions play out in each of the five colourful characters. Plus the moments that take us in to the minds of the adults, who of course have similar characters at their consoles , are very well thought out and on point. There is also the wonderland of Riley’s mind, which we explore through Joy and Sadness’s adventure. It’s a place full of colour and fun and fantasy and the animation is truly stunning. Riley’s imaginary boyfriend made me chuckle and the introduction of her old imaginary friend Bing Bong, now seemingly forgotten by her, adds another lovely element to the story. Not to mention the film makers’ tongue-in-cheek explanation of why we all end up with those random songs or advert jingles in our heads for days without any obvious explanation! You certainly feel that everything included has been carefully considered, researched and created and the finished product is quite wonderful.
I absolutely loved this film and will certainly go to see it again. It’s intelligent, beautifully executed, funny and very moving and will touch a chord with all of its audience, whether you’re a young child or a (supposed) grown up. Forget all the blockbusters and go along and let Pixar remind you what great movies are actually all about!
Inside Out is on general release at cinemas throughout the UK. Watch the trailer here.