Few people are gonna admit to that, but everyone has those little conversations in their heads going on. Thought battles, stream of consciousness – call it what you want, they’re on every healthy person’s mind even if they don’t comprehend that concept. Pete Docter, the creator of Up and Monsters Inc., took the idea and gave voices, bodies and personalities to emotions. Have you ever been ashamed to use the metaphor “this voice in my head tells me that…”? Well, you won’t be anymore – when you see Inside Out.
The main story seems to be simple – Riley, a happy child from Minnesota, moves to San Francisco. And as you could expect, as every little girl, she finds it difficult to adjust to the new environment. Her first day at school doesn’t go well, the new house isn’t the enchanting castle of her dreams, and everything she loves seems to have been left behind with her old friends and hobbies. That’s the point when the usual bundle of joy faces the emotional struggle. Nevertheless, the real adventure is hidden in her mind: the vibrant headquarters, the home of emotions and a busy workplace, try to maintain her well-being. And unfortunately, at the time of the huge changes, Joy and Sadness get lost outside the control room with the main memories and try to find their way back to the headquarters, while their colleagues – Fear, Disgust and Anger – try to keep the state of normality, waiting for their missing co-workers to come back.
Pixar’s mission is educating through entertaining – and as always, the audience won’t leave the cinema disappointed. The different aspects of human mind are portrayed in a playful way, easy to grasp for both the youngest and slightly older moviegoers. Difficult concepts are merging into a small visual miracle: Long-Term Memory is pictured as a storage room full of colour-coded memories, and those which are “core” ensure that the islands of personality are maintained properly. Abstract Thinking is a dangerous path that simplifies the difficult concepts before comprehending them, which is visualised as a space that morphs three-dimensional characters into simple shapes. On the journey, the emotions pass through the land of Imagination, an enormous playground full of bizarre buildings and characters. Similarly, the dream factory is a film studio, which remakes some of the memories, works on the most entertaining, abstract stories and combines nightmares in a manner of horror films. Even the remark about mixed up facts and opinions is a part of a huge lesson about one’s mentality. The journey to subconsciousness – “where the troublemakers go,” as Sadness states – could be used as the primer of Freud for children, with the biggest fears locked up in the restricted area.
Storytelling takes up the duty of making many interactions behind the human brain clear, but the main aim is to describe the science of growing up. It shows how life events help the kids become teenagers and lay the foundation beneath the adult life – alongside changing interests and ultimately losing long-forgotten imaginary friends. Altogether, we get the explanation of maturing built on two parallel grounds. It’s human on two levels: the family story is ordinary, but that makes it believable and gives the simple background to the complicated psychedelia of Riley’s mind. Additionally, the concept of the anthropomorphised feelings, with their habits and personalities on their own which reflect their functions, shapes another level of narration. The emotions make mistakes too, influence each other a lot and don’t always agree, but that creates the tender core of the behind-the-scenes-of-an-individual plot.
What is easy to notice, the burst of colour in the animation happens just in the “control centres”. The outside world is cold and greyish, San Francisco is not sunny and summery at all, and that atmosphere just seems to justify everybody’s behaviour. On the other hand, the city includes things which are scary from a perspective of an eleven-year-old, like broccoli and cool kids, which makes their childhood moments of sadness even more dramatic (who doesn’t remember THOSE details?!).
Some scenes, one of which is featured also in the trailer, that compare the emotions hidden in the brains of people in different stages of life and of different genders and how they respond to each other are utterly hilarious. And there’s some lovable description about the differences in the brains of men and women which will definitely make you chuckle. A bonus – hilarious credit scenes. The teacher bit captured my assumptions about the thoughts of those who have to cope with educating the general public. Myself, I’m definitely identifying with that blasé punk girl from the pizza shop. Emo girls from Riley’s school – oh, emotions and soft side hidden under the eyeliner! Relatable, too, especially if you used to be a cool kid of that sort.
Attention: make a note of this plus mark this in bold and italics, and probably in some sort of large print. The film shows that every single emotion has its role – and even if Joy seems to be the boss that has everything under control, Inside Out showcases also the importance of protective Fear, reasonable Disgust, purifying Anger and cathartic Sadness. They all work as a team to fulfil their job role because the person they belong to is important to them; none of them is purposely destructive and all of them maintain the healthy moderation (which is quite an optimistic concept, but that’s the matter of a whole new discussion). A lesson on growing up and understanding yourself, Inside Out’s age recommendation starts at the first phases of consciousness and finishes at reasonable adults who’ve seen a lot and are willing to take a journey back to get to know more about themselves. Wonderfully complicated, yet not too scientific, it is a tender, cute package of emotional little events, neatly grabbed together and braided tightly to create two perspectives. The final outcome? As always, Pixar will make you learn, laugh, evoke your imagination and maybe even wipe a nostalgic tear off your face.