‘Inside Out’ or — Emotional Integrity?

You see, Christopher Nolan — now THAT’S how you make an imaginative and exciting movie about the workings, layers and levels of the human mind.

I’d heard really good things about Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ (2015) for a while, so much so I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I was also worried that the central conceit was nothing more than Numskulls updated for the ipad generation. Fortunately I was wrong on both counts as not only does ‘Inside Out’ bring a fresh and clever approach to the ‘things-inside-us-that-control-us’ riff but this could also be the best Pixar movie ever made.

The story is super simple — 11 year old Riley moves home with her parents… and that’s it. Except the real story is going on inside Riley’s head as her emotions — Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger etc — frantically figure out how to navigate such a traumatic event in a young girl’s life. What follows is less about restoring Riley psychological equilibrium and more an adventurous insight into how all our minds work, the dangers of emotional repression and the importance of moving on and letting go.

The film is psychologically astute, managing to portray the complexity of human thought and feeling with clarity and cleverness and without, amazingly, falling into a Cartesian solipsistic cul-de-sac. This complexity is best illustrated during a family dinner when we see not just the conflicting emotions inside Riley herself but also the corresponding different emotions inside her parents, too, and the vast array of the different combinations possible highlighting the emotional knottiness of all family interactions. It’s so nicely done and, to top it all off, incredible funny (I loved how the dad’s emotions are all watching sport inside his head while his wife is talking).

In fact, ‘Inside Out’ might be Pixar’s funniest movie with the filmmakers taking the full potential of their set-up and running with it big time resulting in some sublime set-pieces such as the production of a dream inside Riley’s imagination or, my favourite sequence, when the characters have to traverse Abstract Space allowing the animators to exploit their medium to the max and totally go for it.

Of course, being Pixar it still lunges for the feels and heart-strings with gusto but I found myself less moved by the relationship dynamics between the family but was left it absolute bits by the fate of Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend. It’s possibly one of the most devastating Pixar moments ever and I was completely side-swiped by its power. I can imagine many kids loving this film and being touched by it but I can imagine even more parents being in complete floods as the cinema lights come up.

‘Inside Out’ is fantastic. It’s funny, moving, visually inventive and says more about the human condition and the importance of our emotional life than any recent adult film I can think of right now.

Oh, and even though I disagree with him I loved Anger’s line about Hawaiian pizza.

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Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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