OKLAHOMA CITY – My friend Mattress recently asked me what my favorite movie is this year. There could be only one answer. “Inside Out,” I replied, not hesitating. To some, it may seem strange that an adult man would claim a “children’s” movie as his favorite; but, when said children’s movie is a masterpiece, one is left with no other choice. I suppose I could pick a more suitable “adult” film just to fit social morays, but then I would be lying, and we know that is improper.
Iwis, I must speak the truth, and the truth is Inside Out is wonderful. Pixar has once again achieved greatness. From the swell animation to the sparkling Giacchino score to the original story to the humor, this movie is marvelous. But all of those cinematic attributes only allude to the film’s surface elements. What truly makes Inside Out great is something profound.
It is difficult to describe the deep goodness of which I speak. Words like soulful, poignant and heartfelt come to mind, but they somehow feel inadequate, for while the movie is all those things, it is much more. In my humble estimation, with Inside Out, director Pete Doctor has conjured sehnsucht. Sehnsucht is a word I have never used before. In fact, it is a German word, and since I speak not German, I am uncertain of its pronunciation. Nevertheless, it is the perfect encapsulation of the Inside Out experience.
What is sehnsucht? CS Lewis describes it as “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.” That, in my estimation, is exactly what this film brings to life in viewers. That is why many viewers were not reduced but rather increased to tears – what we saw on screen, what young Riley was experiencing, these are things that remind of whence we are; we are reminded of a longing for things years past and yet hopefully right around the corner.
We understand Riley when she craves better things and yearns for a return to a simpler and more meaningful place, willing even to make foolish decisions in search of placation. A character named Bing Bong reminds us of the possibility of purity and unselfish friendship. We know what it means to experience Sadness and Joy, sometimes all at once. Weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing. We know melancholy. We know what it is to long for “we know not what.”
Concluding Pilgrim’s Regress, Lewis writes of “that unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.” I believe what is utterly remarkable about Inside Out is that it manages to join that list.
In closing, it should be said that these thoughts have scarcely skimmed the surface of this remarkable work – doubtless much more could be said in terms of psychology, child development, allegorical elements, what makes cats crazy, where the Pizza Planet pickup is, etc. I simply conclude with this: Inside Out truly is a wonderful tale, and that is why I told Mattress it is my favorite movie this year.
Grant Stevens is a freelance writer who maintains this blog and occasionally writes movie reviews for the Christian Chronicle. In addition to watching movies, he enjoys reading, biking and good food. He is also Y Brenin of the Use Ironic Correctly Society. A musician, Grant has produced a number of albums. Purchase his latest release on Amazon or iTunes.