Last weekend I went to see Inside Out. Kids’ movies aren’t usually my thing, but I was curious to see how a movie could distil a whole range of human emotions into just five characters.
Apparently, pretty well!
If you don’t know the movie’s plot line, I’ll attempt to explain it to you.
It centres around an 11-year-old girl (Riley) whose emotions are represented by five different characters who influence her behaviour.
There’s Joy – she rules the roost until Riley moves cities with her parents. Riley’s joy-influenced memories (represented by golden balls) are soon overtaken by Disgust (eg at the rubbish house they move into), Anger (eg at the way her parents have forced her to leave all her friends), and Fear (eg at having to stand up in a new class at school and introduce herself). But the biggest emotional takeover comes from Sadness.
I can’t describe how, er sad, Sadness made me! I know I cry at everything, but Sadness’s character is the exact personification of the times in my life when I’ve felt most low.
Sadness becomes a struggle for Joy when she starts turning Riley’s joy-filled memories (represented by glowing gold-coloured balls) into sadness (represented by the colour blue). Suddenly, Riley starts focusing on the saddest aspects of her happiest memories, and becomes generally sadder all round.
In her attempts to stop Sadness taking over, Joy, along with Sadness, ends up stranded outside of Emotions’ HQ (where Anger, Fear and Disgust are left running the show). And Sadness literally gives up. She flops onto the floor and makes Joy drag her around by her foot while she moans about how terrible she is.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that, yup, I’ve been there! This is the kind of behaviour that depression can encourage – an overwhelming feeling of such uselessness and pointlessness that the only plausible option is to lie down and embrace life’s total rubbishness!
But Sadness isn’t the worst feeling that Riley experiences in the film.
As Joy battles to keep Sadness under control, back in Emotions’ HQ Fear, Anger and Disgust reckon the solution to Riley’s problems is to encourage her to run away. When she does, HQ breaks down, and Riley becomes numb to her emotions. She effectively feels ‘nothing’ – no sadness, no joy no fear, no anger, no disgust. Just nothing.
I know this feeling too. Well, I guess it’s not a feeling at all – it’s just nothing, and it can be pretty destructive! It’s a kind of apathy that accompanies depression and stops you communicating with the people closest to you. It saps your daily motivation. And it’s completely self-defeating, trapping you in a sort of emotional black hole.
How do Riley’s emotions free her from this nothingness? By allowing her to feel sadness – the emotion they’d been trying to stop taking over all along. Once Riley embraces sadness, her core memories become no longer solely ‘sad’, ‘joyful’, ‘fearful’, ‘angry’ or ‘disgusted’ but more complex – feeding into one another and creating new, multicoloured memory balls.
The point is that it’s OK to feel sad sometimes, because without sadness, other emotions can’t exist. It’s when you try to stop a little sadness making its way into your life that major emotional upset can occur. Pretty powerful message from a kids’ movie right there!
So, to cut a long story short (mine, not Disney Pixar’s!) this film really resonated with me – and I’d definitely recommend giving it a watch.
Oh, and if you’re anything like me, be prepared to cry… like, a lot!