Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Inside Out Adoption Movie Review
Riley’s first memory is a happy one – her eyes open, and she sees her father smiling at her. The memory is recorded and stored in her mind. Years later, as an eleven year old, Riley’s mind is filled with memories, most of which are happy. Her memories (and her actions) are governed by five emotions that live inside her – Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. Everything has been going smoothly until her parents decide to move. Riley leaves behind the Minnesota live she loves and moves to San Francisco where she must make new friends and acclimate to a new culture. It’s hard, and her emotions have a hard time coping. Throughout the months ahead, her emotions try to find themselves, and restore balance – and along the way, they try to figure out what purpose there is to Riley even having Sadness at all.
The short film that plays before inside out, Lava, is a story of a volcano longing for a companion. Will his dreams come true?
The Adoption Connection
While Riley does stay with her parents, she is moved from a familiar environment into a new, foreign, and uncomfortable one. The move is a very hard one for her, and for a time it looks as though she has lost her joy – and even her personality. Kids who have been in foster care may relate to her experience and how it impacts her. I’m also hopeful that adults who serve as foster or foster-adoptive parents might find the movie as a helpful way of conceptualizing what’s going on when their kid acts out. Most behaviors do make sense within at least one context, and Inside Out invites us to meet the context in which they make sense.
Inside Out is fun and imaginative enough to appeal to even young viewers, but intelligent, thoughtful, and psychologically sound enough to be meaningful and helpful and relevant to a broad range of viewers.
The movie offers a very interesting perspective on what makes us who we are. Then, Riley’s world is shaken by her move. That all happens before the title scene. Inside Out doesn’t waste any time.
Maybe it’s because of what I do for a living, but I’m fascinated by the thought of knowing what’s going on in other people’s minds and seeing the world through their own eyes. I could see young viewers coming away from Inside Out with a sense of feeling understood, understanding themselves, and also developing an interest in empathizing with others.
Inside Out shows that there are valid purposes for all of our emotions. It’s helpful for kids to know that no emotions are inherently bad.
Riley does something that most parents would call “very bad” (SPOILER: she tries to run away). Her parents don’t respond with anger, but with love, concern, and understanding. They don’t punish her, because they understand where she was coming from. I love how this film shows the reasons and emotions behind behavior. My hope is that parents and perhaps especially foster parents focus on understanding behavior, rather than simply trying to modify it. Mercifully, the film also lets us into the minds of Riley’s parents – parental responses to kids’ behaviors are also driven by emotions. We’re able to have grace for our kids and for ourselves when we understand that.
The film does encourage empathy. It also shows that sadness is not the same thing as despair. In fact Our sadness can be what connects us to others – they can be drawn by our sadness to help us. Alternatively, we can connect with sadness within ourselves to comfort them when they are sad. That point reminds me of two things – one, a Bible verse that says that we are able to comfort others in their suffering because of the suffering we experience, and this great 3-minute video by Dr. Brene Brown about empathy:
Riley’s mom puts some unfair weight on Riley, asking her to “keep smiling” so that Dad won’t be stressed or sad. By the end of the film, though, Riley is able to express her feelings to her parents, and they’re able to accept them. My only caution here would be to make sure that kids don’t take the “keep smiling to help your parents” as the film’s actual message, but a quick word from parents after the movie can probably avoid that misunderstanding.
There are some sad points where it looks like Riley is losing aspects of herself that are very important to her. I heard at least one kid in the theater crying.
I didn't see any weak points.
This is the best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s fun, engaging, psychologically sound, and therapeutically useful. It is fun and engaging, so it will entertain even quite young viewers, but it seems likely to be helpful to any families that want to be able to think about, or talk about, emotions. Inside Out gets a very rare universal recommendation from Adoption at the Movies – good for ages 3 all the way up to adults. Well done, Disney and Pixar.
By the way, I always stick around until the end of the credits. This is the first movie that the entire theater stuck around, and gave the movie two rounds of applause – first after the film ended, and again after the credits. I haven’t experienced a movie being appreciated in that way before.
Questions for Discussion
What do you think is the purpose of sadness?
Which emotions are strongest in you?
What are your core memories?
What if you could choose your dreams?
In Big Hero 6 (which won Best Movie in the 2015 Adoption at the Movies Awards), Baymax sacrifices himself to save others. A similar theme is in this film. Click here for the Adoption Movie Review of Big Hero 6. Click here for the 2015 Adoption at the Movies Awards.
Riley’s memories are stored in a bank. A similar concept is in Rise of the Guardians. Rise of the Guardians also creatively expressed that there’s more to people than what you see on the surface. It used nesting dolls to accomplish that. Click here for the Adoption Movie Review of Rise of the Guardians.
Joy and Sadness walk through a labyrinth in Riley’s mind which is at least visually similar to the labyrinth in The Maze Runner. Click here for the Adoption Movie Review of The Maze Runner.