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Inside Out At The Multiplex, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:01am

Last week we talked here about movies. Then my husband and I actually went to see one. The earth stayed on its axis.

In all seriousness, the multiplex at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon is pretty lovely. This one sits in the middle of downtown Redwood City, one of several towns on the San Francisco Bay Peninsula with a full commercial district. We got our tickets, ate lunch, walked around, and wandered back to the theater.

We saw Inside Out.

The seats were auditorium style, each row on a rise. A smattering of other people saw the same showing, and I’d say 3/4 of them were children. So no one blocked our view, and aside from a bout of seat-back kicking, it was pleasant to sit in company.

As for the movie itself, I imagine most of you know it’s animated, and concerns a young girl named Riley and her emotions. The movie spans a week or two in her life, as her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. Lots of flashbacks to her childhood. Most of the actions actually takes place in an imaginary space inside the little girl.

How so?

Each of Riley’s emotions is personified in an animated character; Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. They become the movie’s stars. I infer, although I haven’t looked it up, that science believes these to be the primary emotions, i.e. anchored in discrete physical responses,

I enjoyed that scientific background, and all the animations of the machinery of a personality. I know we see, every day, our children and grandchildren are growing up in a new world. This is not the 20th century. Cellphones, social networks, and Photoshopped images have wrought enormous changes.

But Inside Out reminded me that we are also bringing up our children in what has become a post-Freud world.

How will it feel to develop as a person, to grow up, knowing more and more about our workings? Understanding long-term vs. short-term memory? Personality structures? To perhaps see our own brains at work via imaging technology?

Does self-awareness necessarily lead to better beings?

I don’t know. Luckily for all the small ones in the audience, the movie asks other, simpler questions. Will Joy and Sadness escape the Big Scary Clown? Yes they will. Will those emotions make sure Riley doesn’t run away from home? Yes, they will. When Joy and Riley’s imaginary friend fell into the land of lost memories I heard children throughout the theater fretting to their parents. “They are stuck!” said a little girl. But, they escape.

Mostly the movie wants to say that if you want to feel Joy, you’re going to have to accept all your other feelings too. I believe that’s true, although I have no proof.

My real favorite part of Inside Out at the multiplex was hearing parents murmuring to their worried children until they quieted. On the other hand, the mother behind me stopped her kid’s bout of seat-back kicking with a few strict words. It felt sweet, to be in the middle of that intimacy.

I look forward to the sequel. Do you think they might follow Riley all the way to 58, to one morning as she sits on her suburban sofa, wondering about child-rearing in the era of functional magnetic resonance imaging? Maybe not.

This one’s for you, daughter of mine in medical school.

Have a spectacular weekend everyone, in actual or virtual multiplexes of the spirit.


19 Responses

  1. I had a huge feeling that there was light at the end of the tunnel when my son got old enough to enjoy going to the movies. I discovered that good kids movies had a little something for the adults who bought the tickets. It sounds like ‘Inside Out’ is one of those movies, although I doubt it could ever replace “”‘ET” or “Toy Story” in my sweet memories.

  2. I don’t like animation at all – not sure why. I didn’t even love it as a child. I did take my daughter to animated movies of course and remember being so worried I’d fall asleep with her next to me. Drank a lot of diet cokes! Your review sounds wonderful though.

    1. @kathy, funny, I don’t like them either. Suffered through them when my kids were little. I am intrigued by Lisa’s review.

    2. @kathy, Guys, that’s interesting. I don’t much care for this new style of animation, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I loved the old Disney animation – so gorgeous.

    3. I was coming back to comment that I loved the old animation, the Disney classics, like Snow White and Dumbo. Also, while in college, I hand painted animation cells for Charlie Brown movies, to earn extra money. The head of that studio detested digital animation and made all his movies old style.

  3. Have you seen the reviews/interviews that point out how ‘Inside Out’ is improving children’s abilities to talk about emotions? “Anger never seems to listen!” “Everybody has all the colors…” I am so glad I get to live in the world when lots of children will get the benefit of emotionally intelligent science AND the art that can be made with that knowledge. (For those who have not kept up with the development of animated entertainment – go watch everything Pixar has put out. I envy you the lovelies you’ll discover. Bring tissues.)

    1. @Sarah, I haven’t seen those reviews but I suspected as much and am very glad to have it confirmed. “emotionally intelligent science AND the art that can be made with that knowledge.” That.

  4. I’m not a fan of animation, but I enjoyed this movie. Maybe because the mother’s chief emotion was personified as a chubby brunette wearing red glasses? ;) The scene with the Brazilian helicopter boyfriend was pretty great, too.

  5. I like your post.
    I like the trailer and agree with Sarah completely.
    And,yes,I do like the animation,liked it as a kid (we are/were- I lost the track- hosts of Zagreb world festival of animation film,not only for children),enjoyed it as a mother with my son But,that’s not a point. There are lot of trash,bad influence and artistic horrible animated films,too
    I find great to use child friendly and age appropriate way,scientific (before we had instinctive ways :-),psychological and amusing way to deal with emotions,to talk about them with children,to watch a film together,to be together,too. I think that’s how you feel about it,no?
    And I hope for your idea of sequel,too
    And,also,when working with children, I liked to use pictures,dolls,films,books to talk more freely,and to help them to open up
    I hope to have opportunity to watch this film
    Great that your daughter is going to med school. Lots of work and nights and days with no sleep at all :-)

  6. I love your charming and thoughtful review of Inside Out. I loved the film. It is one of the few animated films I did not see with my grandson although I think he would enjoy it and it would be helpful to him, perhaps for the very same reason is he is reluctant to see it. I do think it should be seen with a sympathetic adult. But that is neither here nor there. I do think the animation and use of colors is brilliant and gives children a way to understand and communicate difficult concepts and emotions.

    1. @Mardel, Thank you. I wonder if they made the main character a cool skateboarding early teen guy, the prototypical hero to younger boys, whether your grandson would change his mind.

  7. Yes Lisa,by all means,you are welcome :-)
    I am MD with specialization in school medicine,so I worked a lot with kids and adolescents, it was a part of it (not so deep as physchoanalyst,but I had to detect the problem and decide how to treat it, if it was minor one, or to suggest a psychoanalyst help)
    As I specially liked preventive work, after my son’s birth ,24years ago, I became Head of one Epidemiology departement. Due to my MS I am now in an early retirement
    Well,this was inside-out :-)
    Your brother has very interesting profession
    And lucky you,you have sisters and brother

  8. I am not a hugh fan of animation either but lately there have been some wonderful animated films. I only saw Big Hero 6 because of my grandson but, to my surprise, I loved it! In fact, I don’t mind watching it over again. Its messages about love and loss are universal.

  9. My mum watched this on the way back from London and loved it. My kid saw it with his cousin earlier in the year too. I go to a movie every week- it’s not about the movie it’s about being alone without any responsibility ! I love foreign art house films and docos the best. You should go more often, you’d luff it. The last animated flick I saw was a very powerful cartoon film about a man called Beshir who lived in Palestine. Very powerful. Isn’t it terrible what’s happening to the Syrian refugees? Reminds me of the St Louis being unable to dock just before ww2 broke out. x

  10. I love movies…ALL movies! Give me animation, literary adaptations, thrillers, documentaries, foreign films, and rom-coms. Just no sci-fi, shoot ’em ups, or “Terminator-style” cinema. And I’m sooo very tired of post-Apocalyptic crud. I sigh with relief when the summer money makers are over with and the award contenders are finally released.

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