Director: Pete Doctor and Ronaldo Del Carmen
Starring: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith
Inside Out sees the return of Up director Pete Doctor, and it’s Pixar’s most original film since that 2009 gem. It marks the return of a sense of inventiveness and passion to the Pixar studio, which as of recent times has seemed like it was struggling with a bad case of sequel-itis.
The film centres on Riley, an 11-year-old girl who has just moved cross-country with her family. It’s ostensibly a rollicking kid’s adventure story, but ultimately all of that adventure is just mere backdrop to an in-depth exploration of the cognitive processes of a young girl. This feels like a radical narrative direction for a kids’ film.
Inside Out follows the anthropomorphic emotions of Riley as they react to her emotional distress following the family’s move. Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) are forced to leave the Headquarters (where the core emotions of joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust run the show) to journey inside the mind and fix Riley’s emotional damage.
The visual design of the film is exceptional, in particular a scene where Joy and Sadness start to break down into abstract concepts. The film’s use of colour stands out as a highlight, where specific colours are used to distinguish specific emotions.
The way worlds are built in the film is phenomenal. Core memories form islands that represent personality, and a train of thought is a literal train. The film is probably going to be a popular talking point between psychologists and patients, and it’s the best artistic conception of how the brain operates that I’ve ever seen.
I think Inside Out is the most complex film Pixar has ever made. It doesn’t have a villain and all the conflict is ultimately internal. This is a beautiful, funny and emotional film and what it’s trying to say is really special. The film tells us that sadness is an unavoidable part of the human experience; that sadness is necessary. As Lykke Li sings in a refrain that repeatedly came to mind during the movie, “sadness is a blessing.”
Review by Kevin Chiat