I cannot give this movie a fair review.
For “Inside Out,” the new animated film from Pixar/Disney, turned me inside out. I spent half the film weeping, a deep, chest-heaving sob that was every bit as cleansing as it was embarrassing. It was a few moments in the dark, just the words and characters and the voice of God. And it was exactly what I needed.
You see, a little over a year ago, a devastating tragedy tore through our family. We became crime victims. Months of investigations and court dates and being called to the witness stand. Lawyer bills. A tragic loss of innocence. My children waking up with nightmares. Therapy sessions that will likely go on for years. And all the while, I, as the father in the family this Father’s Day weekend, tried to be strong, wise and capable for my grieving family but never found the moment to let loose my own grief.
And then I got blindsided by “Inside Out.” I’m still crying as I write this, at just the thought of what this movie has meant to me.
The movie itself is charming and sweet and tender. It’s the story of a young girl, growing up and experiencing some fairly typical joys and pains of childhood. But the unique twist is that we are allowed to see inside her head, where her emotions live as separate characters all of their own – Joy and Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, all of whom personify their names and are really the stars of the show.
In this girl’s growing years, Joy has been in the driver’s seat, endeavoring to make “Riley’s” childhood a happy one. But when Riley’s family moves across the country, suddenly Sadness can’t help but feel she should be doing something.
Thus the conflict: Joy doesn’t want Sadness to come and spoil everything. Joy doesn’t know what Sadness’s job even is. Joy would rather Sadness just stay confined in a quiet, safe place.
If you don’t want any spoilers, know that this movie has a couple of rough patches, but it’s family-affirming, hope-inspiring, occasionally funny, even brilliant at times. I have no qualms with recommending it highly to anyone, and there are rarely more than two or three movies in any given year that I so freely recommend.
But to return to my story, I have to return to the story (spoiler alert) of “Inside Out.”
For there comes a moment in the film when Joy can no longer keep a rein on Sadness, and in that moment Sadness moves in to comfort a character who has just suffered dream-shattering loss. Watching from a distance, Joy finally sees that Sadness has a purpose, and one that cannot be neglected or kept in a nice, “safe,” little box.
Sadness, the film reveals, is the emotion that must be felt to give honor to life and to loss.
Until Sadness is felt, loss cannot be let go, and the hope that comes after it is put on hold. If “joy comes in the morning,” then sadness is the night that must come first.
I write for a living, and yet I have no words for how moving that message is to me right now. And the movie doesn’t just park on this theme for a moment and then go for more laughs, but it dwells on it. Develops it. Makes it the main point. And so, for 45 minutes of a 94-minute film, I sat in that dark theater, glad for the darkness, so others couldn’t see the tears and snot running down my beard.
But I’ll share the tears with you now (let’s forget about the snot, shall we?), if only to encourage others who may be hurting now to go see “Inside Out.” For I know I’m not being objective here, but I couldn’t agree with the movie any more: Sadness has a purpose. There’s healing in the tears.
- “Inside Out,” rated PG, contains neither obscenity nor profanity, but the “Anger” character makes a couple of references to wanting to use “a curse word.”
- The film has only a few, minor sexual references, including a toddler who runs around with a bare bottom, a kiss between married adults and a scene where Riley dreams about standing before her class without any pants on (nothing is seen but her bare legs).
- The movie contains some cartoonish, slapstick violence, including Anger acting out and occasionally lashing out, particularly at Fear. There are some tense moments when various items of the mind world crash and collapse. One thought/emotion character sacrifices his “life” for another.
- There are no significant religious or occult elements.
- A couple of worldview caveats: The film depicts Riley’s emotions, essentially her life, coming into existence after her birth, which is a cute plot device, but doesn’t reflect the life of a child in the womb. The movie also posits that our personalities are formed by our experiences and memories – again, a clever way to develop the story, but a premise that doesn’t take into account other theories about Divine, genetic or predisposed elements in personality development.