We had seen the preview for Inside Out numerous times and we knew we wanted to go when it came out. The concept seemed like it might be a little difficult to grasp (personified emotions inside a kid) but it was poised to be Pixar’s big summer blockbuster, so it couldn’t be that obtuse, right?
Here’s where I warn you that if you haven’t seen it and you want to, maybe you should stop reading. It’s a kid movie and it’s certainly not a whodunit, but there will be some spoilers here. I will talk about all the major plot points. So, read on at your own risk.
Ok. Now that that’s out of the way, let me say this: The Who was absolutely riveted throughout the whole thing. He leaned on my arm and he reached for his water bottle a few times, but he really didn’t take his eyes off the screen the entire time, which is pretty rare for him. I think Bears was the last movie that held his full attention for the duration and that was over a year ago. He was definitely taking it all in.
And, honestly, it was difficult for anyone not to be fully engaged. The story of Riley, the girl whose brain (Psyche? Spirit?) we inhabit through most of the movie, is compelling. She’s a cute baby. An endearing toddler. A spunky tween. We’re with her. She’s had joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust (the five) but overwhelmingly, she is happy and well-adjusted and we immediately relate to her.
But there, of course, is where the story turns. When her family’s big move from Minnesota to San Francisco coincides with the relocation of the characters of Joy and Sadness, adults know what is going on. Kids do too, even if the nuance is a little bit lost on them. It’s treacherous there for Riley for a while. Everything that shaped her — all her memories — have been tinged with sadness and then all of a sudden, she’s just left with Anger, Fear, and Disgust.
There is, of course, a happy ending. Because Disney. But not before Riley (and everyone in the audience) gets to careen from joy to despair and back again, pit-stopping for everything else in between on an 2-hour, non-stop amusement park ride of emotion.
And so it was no wonder.
When the lights came up and we all returned our recliners to the upright position, The Who, after having sat mostly stock-still the entire time, leapt from his chair and started body-checking his pal. Then they held hands and lurched toward the aisle. And they giggled, sort of maniacally. And then, almost as quickly, The Who started crying. And when I insisted he carry his water bottle up the three steps to the trash can so I could make a hand available to hold it for him, he dissolved. Then, thinking maybe his earlier silliness was from having to pee, I asked him to use the bathroom along with the rest of us and he threw a fit, whining about tired legs from sitting so long and needing to stand, but also wanting to sit more and again about how l made him carry his water bottle himself and it all just seemed so absurd.
We got into the car, and he was still complaining and carrying on and I just sort of looked at him for a full minute. And then I feel like I actually saw a lightbulb illuminate above my head.
“You’re feeling pretty sad and angry now, huh?” I suggested.
“Yeah,” he grunted.
“Kind of like what Riley was feeling in a lot of the movie. Did you feel sad or angry when she was?”
“No,” he replied flatly.
“When she was feeling sad about leaving her friends and going to a new class and taking a long trip and being away from what she knew and was feeling sad and scared, did you feel any of that too?”
He softened. “Well, maybe. A little.”
“Yeah. Sounds actually a lot like what is going on in your life. Ending kindergarten. Going to camp next week. Going to Boston for a month. Leaving your friends. I would think you might be feeling sad and scared too. And I would bet it might be a lot for you to see Riley going through all of that and then as soon as it was over, to have me make you carry your bottle and go pee when you didn’t want to, that must have just felt like too much.”
“You’re right, Mama.”
“Yeah. No wonder you were so angry. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that sooner. But thanks for talking to me about it.”
And that was it. That was the end of it. He returned to his pleasant, agreeable self. And then we had a completely lovely and easy breezy evening and bedtime. Maybe tomorrow, he will talk more about it. Or maybe he will just notice the feelings in himself as they crop up. Or not.
But, regardless, at least now we both know. That feeling stuff? Intense. And this movie? Intense. For adults, yes, but especially for kids. Kids who are experiencing it all right with Riley. Kids who are perhaps not so accustomed to being, for all intents and purposes, trapped inside a small room for two hours with all of their feelings and all of everyone else’s and absolutely no respite. It’s a lot to take in, especially for a little person. Even one as well-versed in expressing feelings as The Who generally is.
Go see this movie. Definitely. We will probably see it at least one more time, if only to continue to process the emotions. But, yes, definitely, go. It’s funny and entertaining and poignant and sweet and beautiful. It’s worth the ten bucks. But when you do go, if it is with a child, take note. Shit might get really real. So arm yourself for some backlash and open up your heart for some aftercare. Even if it doesn’t seem like they’re affected or like they need any special attention, they do. I’m almost certain.
As a side note, and something to bear in mind, the personifications of the feelings were also problematic. Sadness was a short, fat girl with glasses. Joy was a perky, thin girl with a cute pixie cut. Anger was a man. The Who and I will be talking about those things, too, once the rest of the movie sinks in.