Not only one of Disney Pixar’s finest films, but one of the greatest animated films of the decade, Inside Out is the movie which offers up as much to think about, as it does to enjoy.
In their collaborations since Toy Story in 1995, Disney Pixar have given us some of the most beloved and cherished animated films of all time, ones that are easily able to stand amongst the hand-drawn classic animations of Disney’s past.
In the last decade alone, they have given us sequels such as Toy Story 3 and 4, Monsters University and The Incredibles 2, plus originals including Brave, Coco, and The Good Dinosaur.
To find a stand-out amongst all of these is near-impossible, and of course with many people having grown up with these films, or seen them as a way to revisit and prolong their childhoods, everyone will have their own view on which comes out on top.
For me, however, the decision is easy, and my pick for one of the best films of the last decade is Inside Out.
Released in 2015, Inside Out tells the story of a young girl called Riley who faces a life-changing event as her parents relocate.
We explore Riley’s thoughts and feelings through the anthropomorphised ’emotions’ inside her head; Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear.
What is so wonderful about this film is the concept is so simple, yet it also manages to be one of the most complex and interesting Disney Pixar films, providing food for thought and endless discussion points beyond the movie.
In its tackling of big concepts, and the openness in which it encourages its young audience to share their feelings, Inside Out manages to go beyond what most other animated films set out to accomplish.
As a child, dealing with big, life-altering events is a huge deal, and it is so refreshing to see that narrative played out in an interesting and unique way through the emotions in Riley’s head.
As she starts to miss home, we see the character of Sadness begin to take over, where previously Joy had been the one in charge, something which deeply unsettles the balance of power amongst the emotions.
After a series of mishaps leave Joy and Sadness stranded in the far reaches of Riley’s mind, we see what happens to her as Fear, Disgust and Anger are the ones left to pick up the pieces.
You can really look at this film two-fold. On the one hand, it is a fun adventure story; two characters plus some others they find along the way become lost and need to find their way home.
In many ways it echoes the plot of the original Toy Story, where two lost toys must find a way to set aside their differences and return to their owner.
On the other hand however, Inside Out is a film which delves deep into what it truly means to be a person, what can happen when one emotion overtakes the other, and of course what can happen when our emotions and rationality are clouded over by a particularly dominant trait or feeling.
One of the most affecting scenes in the film is when Riley makes the decision to run away and return to her old home, thinking this will be what makes her happy. This decision is prompted by the character of Anger, who when left in control, plants this idea in her head.
As Riley leaves, we see her face become expressionless and numb, and when it cuts back to inside her head, we see the control desk which the emotions use, become black as the emotions no longer have any control.
As someone who is very open about their struggles with mental health, this is one of the most powerful and accessible visual representations of depression that I have ever seen on screen.
When so overwhelmed with a particular feeling or emotion, there is that sense of everything becoming dark and clouded over as you become numb to everything else around you. The fact that this is in a film aimed at children is so bold and so admirable, displaying a complicated feeling in a way that children will be able to understand.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Disney Pixar film without a truly devastating moment, and Inside Out delivers one of the most beautiful and most unforgettable ones ever.
When Riley eventually sees sense and all five emotions are back at headquarters, she returns to her family and breaks down. Inside her head, we see Joy hand over the controls to Sadness, knowing that in that moment, Riley needs to be sad and she needs to tell her parents she is sad about the move.
When she is comforted by them, we then see her smile, experiencing joy and sadness in tandem for the first time, and a new ‘mixed’ core memory is created. This again is such a beautiful representation of growing up, and how we develop more complex emotions as we gain a better understanding of them and learn to embrace them.
What makes Inside Out so special and so memorable is that it manages to pack all of this depth and meaning in whilst also being charming, and of course incredibly funny.
It truly is the film that can do it all, and therefore, one of the best films of the last decade.
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