It will come as no surprise to learn that Disney-Pixar's latest venture, Inside Out, is an emotional one, given its premise. Even less of a shocker when you consider that writer-turned-director Pete Docter's last film for the production powerhouse was 2009's Up, which had cinemagoers emptying their tissue packets faster than they could say: 'I just have something in my eye.'
Eight years before that, Docter helmed Monsters, Inc – and if you claim that you didn't even shed one tear when Sulley had to say goodbye to Boo when he and Mike delivered her back to the human world, then chances are, you're a liar and not worthy of watching such a sweet, touching film to begin with. But we might be getting a little carried away there...
With all this realised, walking into Inside Out, it's clear we're on to a winner. Much like Up, the film's opening scene is one of the entire feature's most poignant in its depiction of a newborn baby and most importantly, we learn later, the birth of her unique subconscious.
Whilst the new parents are making googly eyes at their daughter Riley, somewhere in an alternative space, a yellow, pixie-looking creature called Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) magically manifests into existence. Then by pushing an important-looking button, freestanding in front of her, Joy begins her lifelong job of managing Riley's mental well-being. As wide-eyed Joy stares loving at what we assume is Riley's view of the outside world, resting her little head in her even littler hands while she does so, it's unavoidably apparent that this film is unashamedly paving its way to becoming a third-time Docter-dampener when it comes to your tear ducts.
As well as Joy, we are then introduced to Riley's others emotions Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), who have also been given the charge of getting her through day-to-day life as well as helping her make decisions that lead to the formation of her personality.
After some time passes, shown through beautifully told sequences offering up different points in their host body's life, as the emotions rewatch particular memories from her childhood, Riley, now an 11-year-old girl, has been uprooted from her happy life in Minnesota when her family relocate to San Francisco when her father gets a new job. A move that causes her a lot of anguish and spins Joy and the rest of the gang into a bit of a panic.
Things take an even further turn for the worse when, after trying to lift Riley's mood after a particularly upsetting first day at school, Joy gets accidentally thrown out of Headquarters, along with Sadness, landing in a labyrinthine world filled with Riley's long-term memories, leaving a numb Riley without the ability to feel either happiness or upset.
As much as their fellow emotions try to act like how they would think Joy would act, Riley's actions tend to come out sarcastically or insincerely, demonstrating that neither Anger, Fear, Disgust or even Joy can pretend to be something they're not when it comes to Riley's feelings. Realising the severity of their absence as chaos ensues around them, Joy becomes hell-bent on returning to HQ and saving Riley from self-destructing and losing herself altogether, a task which sees her and Sadness travel through various obscure lands inside Riley's mind including Imagination Land, Abstract Thought and Dream Productions.
In addition to its immeasurably inventive story, visually, it's both ambitious and aesthetically pleasing but in true Disney-Pixar style not one aspect of it is purely for decoration – everything you see on screen holds narrative purpose. For example, the "Train Of Thought" that Joy exclaims excitedly about as it chugs past a HQ window, the bottomless pit of forgotten memories in the darkest depths of your mind or the idea that several of our most affecting and important memories are logged permanently and therefore make up who we are.
If you haven't guessed by now, it's heart-wrenchingly sweet in both its story and its imagery, and this is additionally reinforced by its spectacular voice cast, with the best of the bunch inarguably being both Poehler and Smith. While initially, it may seem an obvious choice to cast notoriously bouncy Poehler as upbeat Joy, the Parks And Recreation actress adds more than a perky tone to the character's traits. Her motherly nature permeates the screen and with little endearing touches such as describing Riley as "our girl", you really can feel her love for the young woman she's been tasked with looking after and it makes the film even lovelier - and all the more believable.
Smith gets the seemingly harder task of making gloomy Sadness likeable but she never appears to struggle as she presents a real character who despite her name, isn't constrained by being two-dimensional as her sadness is merely a part of her rather than a whole encompassing personality trait. Much like fellow Disney character Eeyore, there's a certain warmth in Sadness' self-deprecation too that makes you desperately will her to find her worth within the movie, which is emphasised even further by Smith's sweet presentation.
But to suggest it merely tugs at the heartstrings is to do it a disservice as Inside Out is genuinely hilarious too. It manages to balance the perfect mix of sharp-witted one-liners about things and over-the-top slapstick comedy, (look out in particular for when Riley suffers from brain-freeze and a stand-out scene featuring a strained family dinner) which will have you see-sawing between chuckling and fighting back that lump in your throat.
Given the subject matter, Inside Out is undoubtedly the bravest story that Disney-Pixar have ever tackled together. While the idea that emotion manifestations Joy, Anger and Disgust are in fact living creatures may be fictional – there's no make-believe when regarding the human mind and what it goes through as we get older and when things aren't so straight-forwardly happy like many stories are in animations. There's no talking toys, a crime fighting family, a rat with exceptional culinary skills or fluffy monsters hiding in your cupboard in this one, alongside the magical world of Riley's subconscious
Despite it's child-like appearance with its bright colours and cute colours, it seems justified to say that Inside Out will almost certainly resonate most with adults. Those who have gone through the tribulations of growing-up, much like Riley and genuinely felt real pain in the process.
As they play on the idea that sometimes you're not in control of your own mind, you can't help but draw comparison to poignant topics such as depression, anxiety and even rage, which many people who have lived a life longer than most typical Inside Out watchers will understand. But it's the way in which this movie presents all that makes it truly breathtaking. Making you aware that there's no shame in feeling joyous one moment and upset the next, angry one minute and scared a little while after, and even sometimes, your emotions can be mixed. It deals with these intelligent subjects in such a way, that you truly believe it when it tells you that it's okay not to be the "happy girl" all of the time.