Inside Out is a marvellous, incredibly deep animation that tackles such profound topics with such nuance and beauty its (no pun intended) a joy to behold. The idea around the emotions of an 11 year old girl could so easily have come across as convoluted or patronising but the genius minds at Pixar manage to weave such a beautiful story with believable character motivations and an incredibly emotional journey that dazzles from the opening minute to the closing credits.
The story revolves around 11 year old Riley who’s life is controlled by five core emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). All of which live inside her brain in a central hub area, controlled by a console and viewing screen that guide her through life. Of course, she isn’t alone and with all other humans controlled by these emotions we gain an inside perspective to the emotion and thought process of each character, even if only for a split second before focusing exclusively on Riley. When Joy and Sadness clash over the best way to handle Riley’s emotions toward moving to a new city, new home and school, they inadvertently set off a chain of events that threaten to destroy Riley’s very emotional stability. With Joy the main driver of Riley’s emotions, its clear that her internal struggle with sadness echoes that of her own exterior conflict dealing with such life changing events. To give away anything more about the plot would be an injustice but the journey that Joy and Sadness take is full of wonder and is enjoyable from start to finish.
On a deeper level, Inside Out is an incredibly emotional, complex film. The ending in particular is one of the most powerful scenes in recent animation, culminating in a satisfying ending to the character’s journey. It speaks volumes too about our own selves and the way we view sadness as a whole. Thematically the film is solid with believable character progression and a real self awareness throughout. With a film this complex, it could easily have become too wrapped up in its own thematic message but thankfully, Inside Out manages to keep a good level of humour throughout. The vibrant and high saturated colours help to keep the film visually pleasing, with each emotion given a distinct colour to help them stand out. Its further helped by a fantastic soundtrack that, whilst sticking to the same chord section throughout many of the tracks, changes the tempo, instruments and key to keep it distinctly familiar whilst giving enough differences to not make it sound like the same song is being rehashed more than once.
With some great performances all round, there’s more than one occasion with Inside Out where the acting really helps make the characters pop. The lip syncing is of course perfect as you’d expect from Pixar but the real meat of the story happens within the complex mind of little Riley. It still baffles me that Pixar managed to make a film out of a cognitive breakdown of an 11 year old girl and arguably make it one of their best pieces of work. The experiences that Sadness and Joy take as they journey through Riley’s mind are cleverly presented and will ring true to many people. Whether it be the Dream Studio where dreams are “acted out” every night or Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong, every element of this film is crafted with such elegance and attention to detail that it leaves little room for critique.
Overall, Inside Out is not only one of the most emotionally intelligent animations released this year, its arguably one of Pixar’s best works too. The story is believable and told with just the right level of pacing to help push the story forward. There’s enough for kids to digest with the physical humour, bright animation and simple story, but dive a little deeper and there’s an incredibly sophisticated moral lesson about the role sadness plays in our life. All of this told through the eyes of 11 year old Riley and the emotions and what you get is a film that’s truly a wonderful work of art from the inside out.