Review: Inside Out


DIR: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen • WRI: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen • PRO: Jonas Rivera • ED: Kevin Nolting • MUS: Michael Giacchino • DES: Ralph Eggleston • CAST: Kaitlyn Dias, Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kyle McLachlan, Diane Lane


Celebrated animation filmmaker, writer and six-time Oscar nominee Pete Docter has honed his craft for the past twenty years in quirky box office hits such as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc. and Up. The concept for Docter’s latest collaboration with Disney•Pixar came to the director in 2009 when he became aware of clear behavioural and developmental changes in his daughter’s personality as she approached adolescence. Set inside the mind of prepubescent Riley Anderson, Inside Out explores the psychological angst aligned with the transition from childhood into teenhood from the perspective of the emotions that drive such maturity, producing an absorbingly complex and sophisticated narrative that emotively stirs both on a visceral and intellectual level.


Hockey-mad Riley is happy with her carefree life in Minnesota. When her parents suddenly decide to move to San Francisco, everything changes for the young girl, provoking her emotions to spiral out of control. Aware of the suffering she endures, Riley’s five dominant emotions become activated in the Headquarters of her conscious mind, where Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness control how she copes with the challenging ventures in a new school and home. When Sadness, who can nullify other emotions by touching Riley’s memories and turning them to sadness, creates a new, sad core memory, Joy’s attempts to destroy it sees her inadvertently releasing Riley’s other core memories and shutting down her personality islands. As chaotic instability in Riley’s mind ensues, Joy and Sadness attempt to rescue the core memories before the other emotions can dominate her fragmented being, consigning Riley to a life of solitude, misery and sadness.


Twenty years since Pixar transfigured the animation filmmaking process with trailblazing innovation in Toy Story and after the recent shaky offerings of Cars 2 and Monster’s University failed to reach the dizzy heights Pixar audiences have become accustomed to, the studio’s fifteenth feature produces an abundance of spectacularly detailed CGI effects combined with an intricately ambitious narrative, which sees Pixar not only return to top form but indeed raise the bar further within animation filmmaking itself. Pursuing an existentially complex yet compassionate narrative trajectory, Inside Out is a rousing rollercoaster of tumultuous thrills balanced by nuanced characters whose raw sensitivities execute the growing pains of childhood with depth, poignancy and intuition. Palpably psychological in tone, the film dissects the profound complexities buried deep within the conscious mind through an erudite and witty script, to make visible the internal suffering of a young girl on the brink of great change, while sedating such cerebral intensity with childlike playfulness and jaunty humour as the activated emotions experience their own hilarious inner vicissitudes.


Delineating a perceptive insight into the psychology of memories through acute emotional intelligence, Inside Out takes a classic, universal coming-of-age narrative and didactically informs through an excess of high-spirited humour and ingenious visual allure. The systematic means by which emotions and memories are stored, processed and transformed by interpreting the symbiotic relationship between the human psyche and interpersonal relationships, serves to bring the often concealed emotional self within the psychology of a child to the forefront in a creatively original and intriguing manner. The film’s narrative entanglements document a child’s complex mental development as it adapts to change and does so with such emotional charge, it poses profound philosophical questions about the nature of human psychology and the necessity to engage with its more melancholic aspects, to attain emotional equilibrium.

Even Riley’s most potent emotion, Joy, finds her optimism persistently challenged and the omnipresence of Sadness, equips Riley’s other conflicting emotions to deal with her unpredictability, demonstrating the necessity to wholesomely embrace a variety of emotions, in order for the self to gain an understanding of the mind and flourish. The narrative’s deep-rooted themes unfold with such intellectual ferocity and at such an accelerated rate, that the labyrinthine script at times, struggles to keep pace with its own velocity, the execution of sharpness often compromised for its phenomenal visual style, sometimes failing to control its philosophies on a completely satisfactory level. But overall, Inside Out can boast a dazzling and compelling style that meets its challenging substance with bucket loads of fun, if perhaps its mature themes may swamp a younger audience.

Aware of its own unrivalled mastery within animation filmmaking, Inside Out is a highly self-reflexive, daring and thought-provoking feature, which provides a groundbreaking perspective on the narrative evolution within animation itself. The film delineates a coming-of-age trajectory, both narratively and technically, that challenges the nature of how animation films are produced and received. Adults will appreciate its wholly elaborate and painstakingly detailed production, while its sheer visual wondrousness will appeal to those whose narrative complexities may at times, overwhelm. While its depth may bewilder on occasion, its ambitious execution in transcending existing animation parameters will reposition the narrative and technical boundaries within contemporary film animation and cement Pixar Animation as the leading figurehead in animated film production.


Dee O’Donoghue


G (See IFCO for details)
103 minutes

Inside Out  is released 24th July 2015

Inside Out  – Official Website






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