Inside Out: unsettling, sad, and damn good

It’s been a long while since I watched a kids movie, and it seems they’ve improved quite a bit during that time. Not only was the animation amazing and lovely to look at, but the ideas were thought provoking, interesting, and somewhat unsettling, even for me seeing it as an adult.

The story of Inside Out follows Riley, an 11 year old girl who recently moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, but the story focuses on the points of view of various characters representing emotions in her head. Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness (strange that only one of them is a positive emotion) all work together in order to try to get Riley through each day.

The story focuses a lot on memories, and the creation of memories and how important they are, especially during childhood. Memories at that time of life really shape you and stick with you for the rest of your days. In the movie, certain ‘core memories’ create ‘islands’ in Riley’s mind, that are her personality traits. Later in the movie, as Riley becomes depressed about the move, we watch those islands crumble and crash into the ‘Memory Dump’, an abyss of forgetfulness. It’s really sad, and poignant, and true, how at such a young age, events that seem inconsequential to an adult can have huge effects on who  a young person is.

Eventually some of the characters fall into the Memory Dump, and down there are endless dunes of memories (usually characterized as glowing orbs, the ones in the memory dump are dim and grey). The characters pick up some of the memories to look at them–happy, childhood memories that decay to dust in their hands. Another sad moment of the film, and one that gave me an unsettling feeling, wondering what memories I’ve lost over time. Mountains and heaps of them to be sure.

Throughout the movie, Joy is constantly trying to keep Sadness from touching any of the memories, because when she does, she turns them sad. But at the end of the movie, not everything is happy. Riley’s core memories are tinted with sadness, because, that’s how life is. Things change and good memories become flavored with melancholy, and the movie seems to say that it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry and miss home and be unhappy sometimes. No one can be happy all the time. It’s part of growing up, it seems, to have your life upturned and messed up, and things you love tainted or taken away from you.

Anyway, I found this movie very insightful, interesting, and touching–for any movie, not just a kids movie. And I recommend it to anyone with feelings.

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