WRITTEN BY: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
DIRECTED BY: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
STARRING: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Diane Lane, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
RATING: 4 stars
The film is set mostly inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). She has just experienced a life-changing move from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents (Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane). Riley's psyche is operated by five emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black). The idea is that the right balance of all these emotions makes her a normal, happy child. Most importantly, Joy does her best to make sure Riley is an upbeat child and tries to stop Sadness from tarnishing Riley's “core memories”. When an accident sees the duo sucked out of the headquarters of Riley's mind into another part of her brain, they must work together to get back and
save Riley from falling into a bleak world without any happiness at all.
Inside Out is sure to appeal equally to children and adults. Younger audiences will not understand a lot of the plot because the concept of emotions in your head dictating your outlook on life is far beyond their comprehension, but they can still enjoy the adventure, cute characters and bright colours of the animation. Older children will especially enjoy the film and likely feel more of a connection to the story. Meanwhile, adults will appreciate the depth of the message. There are so many layers to this film and it will likely make some people cry. I was on the verge of shedding a few tears during a storyline involving a forgotten imaginary friend in the back of Riley's mind. The performances are all very good, especially Poehler, Smith and Kaling.
In some ways, the film seems to deal with mental health issues, but does so in such a clever way. Riley is almost going through a form of depression when Joy leaves the headquarters of her mind, although it is not described as such. Ultimately, at its heart, the film has a great moral lesson about general mental wellbeing. Despite the fanfare, the message is simple – it is ok to be sad sometimes. We do not have to be happy all the time and that is the great thing about being human – we can experience a gamut of emotions and they are all worthwhile. It is an important message for everyone.