Over the past few weeks, Den of Geek writers have been voting for their films of the year. In second place? The stunning Inside Out…
2. Inside Out
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film quite like Inside Out. It’ll be a long time before I do again. Even in the catalogue of Pixar, the firm has rarely tackled anything as narratively ambitious as this nugget of gold, in a year that’s hardly been short on quality animation (Song Of The Sea, for a start).
In the run up to its release, it seems churlish now to consider that Inside Out was being pigeon-holed as a movie take on the cartoon strip The Numskulls, given that it followed the antics of the characters inside the head of a girl, who controlled just what she did. In other hands, that would have been enough perhaps.
Yet Pete Docter and Ronne Del Carmen’s astonishing film had so, so much more than that going on, using this set-up to explore difficult themes. Not just explore, either: it directly addresses them. With a lot of big movies happy to take the easy way out, and count their cash, Pixar reminded the world that this approach held no water with it. It took the difficult road, and refused to back down.
As such, every time I rewatch Inside Out (and it sure holds up to rewatching), I find myself at first marvelling at how fluidly Docter and Del Carmen get across the rules of what we’re seeing for instance. From the balls that hold memories and how they work, to the control desk of emotions, there’s quite a lot of complex information about the film’s internal logic being put across, and yet it barely feels complex at all. Simple, in fact.
Can you just imagine the work required to get it to that stage, though?
We learn, then, that a young girl call Riley is being directed by five distinct emotions – Joy, Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Anger. Riley is going through a lot in life, as she’s being uprooted away from her friends, and there’s a stand-out moment – as seen in one of the film’s key trailers – at the dinner table, as Riley’s parents try and get to the bottom of what’s making her unhappy.
That trailer sold the film, perhaps unfairly, as a comedy (and indeed many who didn’t warm to the film did grumble that they didn’t get the film they were promised). But whilst there are funny moments in Inside Out – anytime Anger gets going for a start – that barely scratches the surface of what the film is doing. In fact, Inside Out turns out to be one of 2015’s most thought-provoking movies, a film that talks to its audience, no matter what their age, about the need for this complex mix of emotions. That joy and sadness must live in tandem.
It’s incredibly cleverly done, at one stage willing to retreat into utterly basic animation to get across what it’s trying to do. In an era when family films have a habit of firing towards the lowest common denominator when it has nothing to say (hello, Pixels), Inside Out treats its viewers as intelligent, weaves a fabulous story, and has something important, and rarely touched upon in movies, to actually say.
That it does this woven into something so accessible, beautifully animated and economic in its running time is some achievement. Coupled to Michael Giacchino’s best score of the year, this is accessible, art and marvellous filmmaking. For Pete Docter too, this is three for three. When do we get to start having chats about him being one of the best directors working right now?
Inside Out is something special, that’ll be cherished for decades. Rightly so. And I got through all of that without mentioning Bing-Bong. Because many months after I first met him, Bing-Bong still melts me…