Movie Review – Inside Out: A surreal utopia



Inside your head, science tells us, there exists an awfully boring meticulous being called the brain. Divided into two and composed of drab greys and bland whites, the brain is an important, but, oft ignored organ of our body. Never the subject of inspiration, it looms in darkness when its counterparts, heart, for instance, finds its place in the lover’s angst that is enmeshed in poetry, jazz and Arabian tales. And this is despite science telling us how our brain is superior over any other and is the reason behind what we feel, think, desire, love, manipulate and sadden while our heart beats and blood flows. In recent times, the most attention that this multi-faceted, life-deciding organ received, was when it appeared as a serious and slightly witty brain opposite a cute little heart in the Heart and Brain comics.;until Disney Pixar opened their colouring books to us.

Pixar’s latest outing, Inside out, is a look into the insides of a brain that is beyond the realm of imagination. Say your earliest memory as a toddler, falling down on the floor, injected a stab of pain and brought a ‘wuaah’ out of your mouth; inside your head, a tiny voice called sadness was born, to keep you company, so that you are reminded of your first brush with pain. This is the gist of the tale of  Inside out, Disney’s Pixar’s finest creation ever.

Beginning the story with the birth of Riley, Director Pete Doctor, details the emotions of a child, as she grows from babyhood to pre-teens. Right from showing her joy at seeing the faces of happy parents beaming down at her, to feeling disgust at eating the green yucky broccoli, to throwing a terrible tantrum at being forced to gulp down the greens, to feeling anger at being defeated at ice-hockey, these emotions flit across Riley’s face, as deeds of the five ‘voices’ that live inside her head.

Helping her steer her way through the world, these voices, be it the green cocky ‘disgust’, the red and burly ‘anger’, the shivering purple ‘fear’ and the two central protagonists i.e. the euphoric ‘joy’ and the utterly glum, ‘sadness’, are Riley’s invisible friends. While this alone makes the movie an interesting plot, a few carefully planned details, that Pete throws into the concoction, is what makes this film, a masterpiece. For instance, what if I tell you that the song that you can’t get rid of, that you keep humming over and over, is the handiwork of a cute worker down at the long-term memory department, who enjoys playing the tone in loop for the sheer heck of it?

Little joys in our own respective heads wake up as soon as we see Riley’s mind buddy – Joy, voiced by the bewitchingly happy Amy Poehler, who sees her purpose in Riley’s happiness. So, as a happy Riley ice skates around, or when you see sadness, voiced by the stunning Phyllis Smith hug Riley’s imaginary friend Bing-Bong and console him effortlessly. Displaying wit and often quiet intelligence, sadness is the black sheep amongst the lot, until she makes an important intervention in Riley’s life. Equally delightful to watch, is the wimpy funny ‘fear’ and the impulsive ‘anger’, as they serve as defense mechanisms to Riley’s encounters with adversities. ‘Disgust’, most often in her disdainful best, adds colour and character to the ensemble.

In between these resplendent sights, we are given a glimpse at the inner workings of the minds of Riley’s parents. Of course, these are gendered stereotypes, but how can one not laugh seeing the inside of the brain of a man, Riley’s father’s that is, full of five stocky mustached figures cheering at the memory of a match, exactly when Riley’s father must give an answer to his wife’s concerned queries?

Elsewhere, away from the awe of the characters, Pete Doctor leads you to the architecture of his dream. In shelves and racks, colourful memories appear as crystal balls. While some of them remain as Riley’s core memories, learning to skate for instance, some others are discarded. One of them being Riley’s imaginary friend Bing-Bong. Riley’s different facets of personality, endearingly called the Islands of Personality, are the base of her functioning. Living atop the headquarters, the five, govern the workings of these islands, to keep her as wholesome. Connecting the headquarters to the islands of personality, is her listless thought process, a train (a wonderful pun) run by a dedicated set of workers. When Riley sleeps, the train halts and the workers take their much-awaited break. Isn’t that wonderful? (the joy in my head, asks.)

In the world of animation and 3D, where voiceovers happen inside brightly-lit studios, artists work on mammoth landscapes for years and story-tellers strive to find a narrative that ensures a riveting spectacle to its viewer, <Inside Out> is a revelation. And this is certainly not because it is another mushy cutesy animation movie from the Disney factory. Addressing abstract thoughts as 2D, sketching subconscious as a bottom less pit at the bottom of creepy staircases, this work of art, that did not hesitate to colour beyond the lines, carries a powerful message. One cannot simply overcome sadness with liberal dosages of joy nor can one perpetually stay in gloom in bleak circumstances. Inside Out isn’t here to let you gush at its originality. It is here to tell you that the insides of your head is one gigantic balloon, with a few lil’ yous, pressed against the walls, waiting to see you live and fight each day as it comes.

And you, like I, would believe so, when you walk out of the movie hall holding the finger of a little you, a rainbow-coloured ‘ecstasy’.


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