Film Review: All the Feels

Courtesy IMDB
Courtesy IMDB

Inside Out, written by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, & Josh Cooley. Directed by Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen. Seen November 12, 2015.

“Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.” – the 14th of Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

When Pixar first announced they were going to do a movie that took place inside the mind, I was a bit dubious. I mean, I love Pixar and have adored almost every single one of their films (Cars 2 being the biggest disappointment, with no clear winner as to my favorite), but the sheer mechanics of what that would look like and how they were going to accomplish it seemed too much even for them.

I really should have known better.

Inside Out is the story of Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), a little girl who loves hockey and her family and her friends, and the primary emotions in her head. The first one introduced is Joy (Amy Poehler), followed quickly by Sadness (Phyllis Smith). After Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) come into the picture, we are then quickly thrown into the twist of the dreaded family move.

But why THIS story, to reference the quote above? As with all of Pixar’s films, Inside Out is much deeper than what it appears on the surface.

It’s actually two stories: the surface story is Riley and her adjusting to her new home, making new friends (or not), and trying to stay happy as she feels she is expected. The other story, though, is of Joy and Sadness, as they struggle to work with each other. Both stories are about our expectations and the expectations of others, and of how important communication is.

However, the heart of the story of Inside Out is the very valuable lesson that sadness is needed in life just as much as joy, that you can’t have one without the other. It takes it a step further and even encourages the concept that we sometimes needs to let sadness into your life in order to re-find the joy. Who but Pixar, where Up has one of the most depressing openings to a movie ever, would have that as a moral?

As with many other Pixar films, the story has no clear ‘bad guy’ for our main character(s) to battle against. Every character has good points and bad, and it’s more a slice of life kind of story. And that’s kind of the point.

Overall, Riley’s story is not-so-subtly commenting on the fact that our society praises ‘being happy’ over any other emotion, and how much pressure there is on everyone (kids especially) to not show ‘negative’ emotions such as sadness. Pixar – per usual – does this with more than one punch to the gut. (The part of me that is a storyteller loved that when a certain character sacrificed itself, I was in a theatre of mostly adults and you could hear the whole room collectively sniffing and holding back tears.)

I’ve read on Tumblr that there are child psychologists who are using Inside Out to help children better communicate about their feelings and to name them. I only hope the adults who watch the movie see that this needs to be something that doesn’t stop once you’re no longer a child.

Inside Out is a beautiful film about the importance of all the emotions to our lives, and how there needs to be a balance in order to truly be happy.