When I first read the synopsis of Inside Out (2015), I instantly knew that I was in for a treat. Because, come on, how interesting is it to see the workings in one’s head and with different emotions represented as characters? Besides, Amy Poehler as Joy? Mindy Kaling as Disgust? Bill Hader as Fear? I was already imagining how perfect the casting was and so, naturally, I had high hopes for it. But the people over at Pixar have a way of exceeding my expectations and surpassing standards they themselves had set. Not only is Inside Out thoroughly enjoyable; it also gives its viewers so much to talk about and ponder on after the credits are done rolling.
The premise of the movie is simple: Riley is eleven and she has had a happy childhood, surrounded with so much love from her parents and friends. The emotions over at Riley’s Headquarters, with Joy in charge, got everything under control—until the day Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. Being uprooted from everything and everyone you know all your life, that’s quite life-altering. And this movie shows how Riley, her parents, and the emotions inside her head went along with the roller-coaster experience of it all. Simple, see? But what’s admirable about Inside Out is how complex the concepts are, told in the most uncomplicated manner even a kid can understand. There are the core memories, the different islands which signify the important aspects of Riley’s life, long-term memory, subconscious, imagination, train of thought, and even the culprit behind last-songs syndrome. The details such as Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong, pointing at déjà vu several times and the reality filter used in dream productions were well-thought-out and it’s like a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to the watching adults. A friend of mine even spotted an old movie reference which of course I didn’t catch because I haven’t seen Chinatown yet. Aside from ticking the high-concept box off the checklist, Pixar boasts its prowess in animation which I believe was most creatively showcased during the part where Bing Bong, Joy and Sadness had to morph into two-dimensional objects. But no matter how technical it gets, the heart of the story still takes the front seat. It is about emotions after all.
Inside Out had me thinking about how important it is to choose what one has to say. Remember the part when Riley has had a bad day and Anger was about to go all-out with his feelings but abruptly stopped when Riley’s mom said thanks? People’s emotions can be very volatile and there’s no telling how one reacts to his/her environment. So I guess this is a reminder to always be careful of saying or doing things you cannot take back once said or done. Just imagine all the difference it will make if you act otherwise.
It also had a lesson on sacrifice and letting go, when Bing Bong chose to be forgotten just to help Joy get back to Headquarters and make Riley happy again. I teared up in that bit, watching Bing Bong fade into dust. We all have that kind of friend, real or imaginary, who used to be our world and then at one point things just change. They disappear or we forget. Or we just grew up. In Sadness’s words: “It’s just… sad.”
The best realization I’ve had with Inside Out, however, was how Sadness becomes an integral part of growing up. There’s this notion that Sadness should be suppressed and be enclosed in a circle. That core memories tinged with sadness is something to be avoided. But Joy realizes in the end that this shouldn’t be the case. Sadness allows us to be weak sometimes in order to let others be our source of strength. Sadness says it’s okay to break down every once in a while because that’s when we get the courage to gather back the pieces and rebuild from there. If not for sadness, joy will lose its charm and complexity. So that last bit in the movie where the core memories were shown to have a mixture of yellows and blues or greens and reds instead of the solid yellow colors from when Riley was younger? I found that a beautiful interpretation.
My initial reaction after watching was “That was an adult film masquerading as a movie for kids!” And then I realized that if it’s in terms of extracting a lesson out of a story, we are all kids. We continue to learn from experiences and material presented to us, and we work on that. I think Inside Out has given us much to work on until the next great story comes along.