Pixar took a situation that is rather common and troublesome for kids, and turned it into a movie. And they did a damn good job. Inside Out is one of those films where there’s so much going on that I’ll have to watch it multiple times to catch everything. I spent some time thinking how to approach a review, and I know I don’t explore other parts of the movie much, but the movie as a whole was entertaining to me.

TL;DR: It perfectly captures the feeling of being a kid dealing with an unfamiliar or life changing situation. I was reliving the tougher parts of my childhood and teenage years during the whole movie.

Inside Out

“It’s perfectly okay to not be happy all the time. Sadness has its place.”

Inside Out is a film about the emotions inside a girl’s head about her move from wide-open Minnesota to up-close-and-personal San Francisco, one that made me look inside myself and learn something, or look back on something in my past.

The film opens on Riley being born. Joy is the first to arrive at the helm of Riley’s mind, and its clear from the first moment that she loves to make Riley happy. But then Sadness shows up, about 15 minutes in, Joy drew a circle around Sadness and told her to stay there. Riley was repressing her feelings. So at this point, Riley has arrived at her new home and tried hard to hold up under the stress of everything. Joy is doing her best to make sure of that. But that isn’t necessarily a good thing, the other emotions aren’t coping well with the extensive environmental change. Fear doesn’t know what day to day life will bring anymore, Disgust hates the stuffy city, Sadness expects the worst, and Anger is straight up mad about the fact that they moved.

This is where the Pixar film reigned me back into my childhood, but not in the way I expected. My experience of coming to Jogja occurred when I was fifteen, not far off from eleven, Riley’s age. I’d moved so many times before that, in multiple cities and three different province; I thought I was partially numbed to the whole thing. But the makers of “Inside Out” had stumbled on a method of reconnecting my feelings to the first time, the most traumatic time. I was already wired differently from the kids back home, I was lost but trying to stay happy, and failing.

To climb out of the past and get back to the movie, was harder than I expected. I was okay at first, but when joy and sadness were sucked up out of headquarters, leaving the other emotions to keep Riley going, and when the “personality islands” turned gray I found my chest tightened.

Its like your whole world is falling apart. Both for me and for the character Riley, this very much was a core memory. I was painfully shy and felt like a total social outcast. The feeling of being completely out of one’s environment was captured perfectly in the scene–the emotions running amuck in her head, not knowing at all what to do or how to act. The scene instantly brought back this feeling for me. I knew exactly what Riley was going through.

This causes the emotions in her head to go into chaos, and as soon as the first one crumbled and collapsed I was in tears. This wasn’t about Jogja anymore, this was about February 2005 – June 2010. Those five years spanned the longest depression of my life. I was watching, on screen, a perfect representation to the erasure of my entire identity during that time.

The visual destruction of Riley on screen connected with me to the point I was sobbing my eyes out just watching it. It took me a while to calm down because right there, for everyone to see, was what had happened to me for so long.

Some of us have rougher childhoods than others, and some have better childhoods like Riley’s. Loving parents, great friends, and a passion for something–Riley’s being hockey. She is a kid that’s had a fairly smooth life so far, and this is the first big bump in the road for her. As kids, with such little life experience, we don’t know how to react, and like in Inside Out, we don’t know how we’re supposed to feel.

My high school years were rough, and for me that snowballed into college life. I kept suppressing my own Sadness; thinking crying was a weakness and that I should always try to be happy. But by the time I realized I wasn’t happy, I had become depressed. And I didn’t feel anything at all anymore. Just like how Inside Out showing the progression.

First comes a sense of numbness that is not quite sad but is certainly a lack of joy. Then something goes through and paints all your old memories as negative ones, like sadness touching all the globes. Every time you look back at the things you used to think on fondly, it is tainted by the dark lenses of the sinking mood.

Joy and Sadness do become abstract thought – as they briefly do so in the movie. It becomes harder to escape and Joy does fall down into the place of forgetting. She falls all the way into the darkness where some people never see her again. And should you be lucky enough to get her back, the movie got that right too. You will be a different person.

The new core memory was bittersweet. Because joy realized that sadness was just as important as she was. Because when we share our sadness that allows us to connect with others and it’s usually connecting with others that is our salvation from depression.

As a kid, this can be hard to understand. It certainly was for me. As an adult looking back, I am reminded of the turmoil I felt as a child during my harder childhood moments. They aren’t pleasant memories, but they have shaped who I am, and I am a stronger person because of it. Its part of growing up.

From there, positive memories started forming. Riley was herself again, and then the movie credits played while they showed the insides of other people’s heads, finally a dog and ultimately, for the best and most needed laughter of the night, the inside of a cat.

inside out emotions