Film Review: Inside Out

I am fascinated by the brain and why we perceive the world the way we do. How our emotions can be shaped by our environment and social interactions and how mental health has such a dramatic impact on all aspects of life. It’s a fascination that I have always had, always looking to answer the question “why?” rather than the question “how?” but it’s my own recent issues with mental health that has truly ignited my passion and which have lead me to be on the verge of starting a psychology degree at University.

So when Pixar returned from a “year off”, that I must admit I hadn’t noticed, with a trailer selling a film that personified of the emotions within our heads I instantly took noticed. The problem was I felt the trailer looked immature and childish, that rather than being emotional it would be comic and that put me off it slightly. Then reviews started appearing claiming this to be an absolute marvel and a cinematic risk of storytelling that Pixar get spot on. I even heard a review from a clinic psychologist explaining how moved she was by the film that she’d use it as a basis for working with children professionally!

Kids In Cinema - Inside Out

Now, the problem with any ‘U’ rated children’s film that is released during the school holiday’s is that it will be filled with children. They’ll talk, fidget, much popcorn and slurp drinks. Basically they’ll make noise, wind me up and distract from the film, so I’ve been waiting to see Inside Out. To let the initial crash die down as it were, instead listening to weekly podcasts repeating the monologue that Pixar have pulled another masterpiece out of the bag but unable to risk seeing it myself. However, with Inside Out now down to only 3 showings a day hinting that enough time passed so most children will have seen it, I took a chance and booked a ticket.

The first thing that struck me is just how beautiful, tactile and vibrant the created world and characters are. They have that instantly recognisable Pixar animated feel to them. You never forget that it’s an animation but it’s totally inviting and warm and friendly. Instantly putting you at ease and making you forget that nothing on screen is “real”. It doesn’t even matter what narrative tone the story takes the world it is told through never loses that sensation. It’s this wonderful juxtaposition of real and fake that means even though it’s obviously computer generated you somehow believe that you go there. That you could reach out and touch it. The colours, smells, temperatures and nuisances are living and natural and organic.

Characters - Inside Out

Sadly though, even though the world is homely and inviting the story just fails to deliver the same clarity. The problem for me is that the subject matter is just too grand. While Pixar has attempted to condense it down to the lowest common denominator, children, in doing so they’ve simplified the characters and the story just a little bit too much. I am sure that if you are eight years old it will brilliantly help to explain the sensations of joy, anger, fear and sadness that exist in your head, cleverly allowing you to connect what you feel on the inside to how you act on the outside, as well as, showing how emotions can work independently or in tandem but as an adult, I sat there fully aware that each sensation is actually an amalgamation of multiple strands and variations and isn’t as simple or black and white as it’s portrayed, and it just left me wanting more depth to the characters.

This over simplification actually meant that the characters started to become annoying after a while. Those subtle variations are there, even those they are ignored in the hope you wont notice. Fear being a good example, as it mixes fear, anxiety and control all into one “person” fine if you’re 8 and don’t notice, but for me, meant I never fully trusted him because his reaction to a situation seemed muddled and misplaced. I also found that forcing so many variants into so few headings caused the emotions to actually be too extreme in their portrayal and actually start to make me withdraw from them. It’s part of the point the story, to show you that emotions on their own lack balance, but I just sat there thinking I don’t want extreme happiness or depression or aggression pushed into my face so much and so often. Inside Out just lacked a natural balance for too much.

I could probably temper my annoyance towards the over boiling of the theme and characters if the actual plot wasn’t completely full of holes or gaping anomalies that left me feeling almost contempt for the blindness it was showing. The plot has no depth and is very linear but too often it’ll take the convoluted route around a point or stretch an scene out just too much that you wonder why how they have missed the obvious. Shortcuts come and go in broad daylight but rather than explain them away they just hope you don’t notice. But I did and as a result I just sat there thinking “why don’t you just do that?” or “why are you doing this?”. It comes down to the fact that it’s a children’s film and I’m a 31 year old adult, but it is so infuriating because it’s impossible to not pick up on them.

Pixar Characters - Inside Out

It’s not all doom and gloom though because the final third of the film, when it reaches it epiphany and delivers the deep and important emotional message that it’s built up to, is done with a beauty and warmth that gets briefly inside you and does make you happy. As with everything though, it’s a theme that’s played out a bit too simplistically and without much in the way of expanded explanation. It is, however, just enough to salvage the film from being poor into good, but it’s not enough to forgive the 60 minutes of monotonous and preschool story telling it takes to get there.

Inside Out is a very brave film, that tackles a serious, complicated and delicate subject matter with care and attention. It’s just such a shame that it reduces the subject down to such an extent that it destroys the depth and plausibility the story really needs. It has Pixar’s natural quality all over it, and accepting I’m not it’s target audience, I just feel that it lacked the richness that Toy Story, Up or even Wall-E has to keep you submerged into it’s world. It never lost me enough to look at my watch, yawn or feel bored but I don’t feel I’ve gained anything either or been emotional moved. I just feel like I’ve watched a kid’s film based on a very grown up subject.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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