Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Inside Out," and learning to live with Sadness

Dh & I went to see the new Pixar movie, "Inside Out," this afternoon. (I ventured in to buy the tickets while dh parked the car. "Two tickets, please," I said to the young girl at the box office. "Is that two adults?" she said. "Ummm, yes," I muttered, extremely conscious that every other adult in line had at least one kid in tow.) 

Of course, as it turned out, this is one of those kids' movies that's really not for kids at all. (Bring Kleenex!)

As you may have heard by now, the movie is all about 11-year-old Riley, whose happy life with her parents is turned upside down when they move from Minnesota to San Francisco.  Most of the activity takes place inside of Riley's brain, where the control board is presided over by her emotions: Fear, Disgust, Anger, Sadness, and (especially) Joy (all brilliantly voiced).

This was a good movie (definitely a thumbs up -- dh loved it too) -- but it was also a tough movie for me personally to watch, for several reasons.

First, the scenes of little Riley frolicking with her parents were a painful reminder of everything I've missed out on over the past 17 years with our daughter.

Second, Riley's emotions as a little girl uprooted from her home and friends by her father's career move were all too familiar to me. My sister & I lived in 9 different houses in 5 towns in two provinces before we graduated from high school, moving around every 3-4 years because of our dad's job. The longest I ever lived anywhere, prior to marrying dh, was 6 years. The movie brought back a lot of memories, not all of them good.

Third, the movie was sometimes hard to watch because of the lessons it imparts about our emotions -- in particular, Joy and Sadness -- and the roles they play in our lives. Instead of asking Riley about how she's feeling about the move, Riley's mom reminds her daughter about the stress dad is under with his new job, and says "it would be a big help" if she could just keep smiling. Hmmm, why does this sound familiar? Joy (voice by Amy Poehler) frantically tries to keep Riley happy -- and keep Sadness away from the control board. Yet by the end of the movie (SPOILER ALERT!), it's Sadness who saves the day for Riley. Joy realizes that Sadness does have an important role to play in Riley's life, that sometimes we need Sadness, before Joy can return to our lives again. 

Dan Kois of Slate finds this message "revolutionary." Reading the Slate article (and I would recommend it), I was reminded of Barbara Ehrenreich's book "Bright-Sided," (which I reviewed here), and the constant pressure we feel in this society to remain relentlessly positive and upbeat in the face of all kinds of truly crappy situations -- cancer, death, stillbirth, infertility. Our grief and sadness make others uncomfortable. Like the character Joy, they whirl around, trying to distract us with upbeat chatter -- when often, what would really help us feel better is for someone to sit down beside us, put an arm around us and say, "hey, that's sad" while we cry -- as Sadness does in the movie.

Lori Lavender Luz saw the movie recently with her kids, and had a similar observation about this key lesson:   
We in the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community have a tradition of abiding with someone who is enduring a loss or facing a fear. We don’t dismiss the emotions (“it’ll all be OK”) or tell someone to “get over it.” We don’t avoid tough emotions. We sit with a person while she feeeeeeels it. We walk alongside.

Have you seen the movie yet? (Don't forget the Kleenex!  lol)  


  1. I can imagine how some of those scenes would, well, bring up some emotions.

    Smart girl with the tissue advisory :-)

    One thing I'll always be grateful to this community for is teaching me about sitting with sadness.

  2. I saw the shorts, and thought then how revolutionary it seemed to make a film about dealing with emotions. It sounds even better having read your review. I love the line at the end of the Slate article: " ... it’s reminded me, that sadness and joy can happily coexist."

    When I thought of you moving a lot as a child, I thought of another blogger friend I have who did the same. (Whereas I lived in the same house till I left home). She writes a lot about stability, about finding "her place" and putting down roots. I think that's as good an explanation as any to others about why you live where you live, and why you haven't taken off travelling the world.

  3. So glad you enjoyed Inside Out! Your assessment is exactly what I'd hoped for out of this movie!

    I want to see it! It's the type of movie that I'd have to drag hubs to and it might look weird for an adult to go to a "kids" movie alone. Plus with not knowing how I'll react, I might just wait until it comes out on BluRay and just buy it.

  4. My DH and I also bought "two adult" tickets and saw the InsideOut movie. I cried as well. I was very touched by the "islands" of her personality and how they crumbled and shattered when depression set in. I also felt like all my personality islands shattered when our IVF didn't work out and adoption wasn't right for us. I'm slowly, ever so slowly, building new personality islands and slowly coming back to life. I, too, loved the role that Sadness played in the movie. And serious--bring a Kleenx!

  5. I saw the movie just this weekend, and I loved it. I thought a lot about how I work with students at school, too. And how I parent: how sometimes I worry about making everything so perfect because I feel so lucky to have the children I do ... but knowing that sometimes the sad memories make the happy ones possible is a game-changer, even as much as I've learned here about the importance--as Lori says--of "sitting with Sadness." Thanks for the review!

  6. I saw it, though the place I completely lost it was with Bing Bong. Especially the joy in his voice when he tells her that she'll make it this time, and every adult in the room knew what he was going to do. OH MY G-D, I just started sobbing typing this.

  7. It's rare that a summer movie stays in my head days after leaving the theater, but "Inside Out" has done that brilliantly. It's a beautifully crafted movie that bursts with creativity and humor, centered around some insights about how we think and react to the worlds in which we live. It's not just a movie for kids. It has challenged me to think about how I parent my daughters and what I teach them about their feelings and emotions. And it's also prompted me to think about my own challenges in balancing joy, sadness, anger, and fear. It's a wonderful movie for both kids and adults. Best film I've seen all year, by far. I think this one will endure for years to come.

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  8. thanks for the review Loribeth. We've heard this is the one movie we should see this summer- but I might have to go to a drive in so I can cry!!!!