Thursday, 30 July 2015

Inside Out (4 Stars)

I don't often watch animated films. I'm not sure why I have an aversion to them. It's not because they're (usually) children's films. I have no problems watching films aimed at younger audiences. There's just something that keeps me away from them. Nevertheless, I was curious about "Inside Out" from the beginning. The trailer amused me with its psychological implications. I was also curious because of its massive box office success in other countries. It wasn't released in the United Kingdom until the end of July, more than a month after the USA and most other countries, so I had been reading about its success for weeks.

The film is about an 11-year-old girl called Riley and her move from Minnesota to San Francisco. More than that, it's about the voices in her head that are responsible for guiding her life. These voices represent the five basic emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. They sit at a control panel in Riley's head looking out through her eyes and taking turns in guiding her actions. Joy is the main emotion, and she tries to keep the activities of her four companions to a minimum. In particular, Sadness is not allowed to do anything.

Everything that Riley does is consolidated into memories, coloured balls representing one of the five personalities. The most important memories are stored as core memories that define Riley's personality. Joy considers it a success when these memories are yellow, her own colour. Very few are purple (Fear), green (Disgust) or red (Anger). None are allowed to be blue (Sadness). These core memories are divided between five islands that define the five major aspects of her life: Family Island, Honesty Island, Hockey Island, Friendship Island and Goofball Island. So far so good.

The real problems begin when Riley's family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, into an ugly little house. Joy refuses to let Sadness express herself and keeps Riley unnaturally happy. Are you starting to see the psychological implications of the film? Sadness doesn't actually rebel against being suppressed, but she begins to interfere with the core memories out of boredom, corrupting them. A series of accidents leads to Joy and Sadness losing their place in Riley's head, followed by the personality islands being destroyed. Most of the film is based on Joy and Sadness teaming up to find a way back into Riley's head. At the risk of giving away spoilers, we see that Riley can only become a healthy, balanced person when Sadness is allowed in her life.

The film's strength is its balance between comedy and serious messages. The film is humorous throughout, so I laughed at everything that happened, and the deeper implications of what was happening only sank in a few seconds later. I can imagine these five voices in my own head guiding my life. I wonder which one is in control in my life.

There was a young girl sitting close to me in the cinema, probably about 6 or 7 years old, accompanied by her father and grandfather. I noticed that she laughed in several places, though not as often as me. I wonder how much of it she really understood. "Inside Out" might be appealing to children because of the cartoon characters, but it contains very adult messages. It's probably more suitable for children from 12 upwards.

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