Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's time to go hug my children...


I’m going to get real here for a minute, so please bear with me.

A few months ago, my seven year old got her first diary.  She was so excited to be able to fill it with her deepest ‘secrets’ she said, and she bounded up the stairs and locked herself (figuratively, since my seven year old does not actually have a lock on her door) in her room to write.  The next day, I was tidying up her room and I saw her diary staring right up at me from her bookshelf and I couldn’t resist the urge to pop it open and read her first entry.  Expecting to read about the boy she had a crush on and her dreams of being with him (yes, sadly I’m already dealing with that) I literally felt my stomach hit the floor when the first words I read were, “I am sad”.  My eyes glazed over with tears as I continued reading and saw, “Everyone says they love me but I’m not sure they really do”.

I’ll tell you this, I have never been so crushed as a father than I was in that moment.  Immediately I started to analyze every conversation I’ve ever had with my daughter, every disagreement we’ve had, every fight, every time I’d disciplined her or punished her or yelled at her.  I questioned if I told her I loved her enough, did enough with her, spent enough quality time with her.  HOW COULD SHE NOT KNOW THAT WE LOVED HER MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF!?!?!  This was my happy girl, my beautiful, joyful, happy girl who brightens every room and loves everyone and who literally says her motto is, “Make a new friend every day”, and she does that.  How could she be sad?  How could she be saying these things?

Needless to say, she was not very happy with me when I told her that I read her diary, but there was no way we were not going to talk about this.  It was in that moment, as she laid her head on my lap and cried about how she couldn’t explain her feelings but she just felt that way that I realized what parenthood was all about, and when I dried her eyes and she hugged me close and said, “Thank you daddy, I feel better now”, I knew that everything would be alright, and that this was just par for the course, but I also knew, in my gut, that this would NOT be the last time we’d be having this conversation.

Much like Pete Docter, the writer/director of Pixar’s newest masterpiece, ‘Inside Out’, I just want to understand my daughter better. 

After seeing ‘Inside Out’, I’m so thankful that my daughter can understand herself a little better as well.



‘Inside Out’ tells the story of Riley, or more specifically, Riley’s emotions.  Riley is a sweet, energetic, happy eleven year old girl who is posed with problem that, to her, is massive.  She’s moving.  Due to her father’s employment (which is obviously a source of stress for him), they have to leave her childhood home and move to a new place (which is pretty much a dump) and she has to enter a new school (which is not poised to be her friend) and yet she feels compelled to put on a smile and shelter her emotions from her parents so that she can make this easier on them. 

On the inside, her emotions are having a bit of a conundrum. 

You see, up until this point in Riley’s life, her inner workers have pretty much been guided by Joy, her first and primary emotion.  Joy is a spitfire of fun and excitement and a bundle of positivity who watches closely over every moment in Riley’s life to extract and embellish the…joy.  Riley’s life is guided by ‘core memories’, those special moments that have shaped the person she’s become, and those memories are inherently joyful.  But, in a shocking twist, Sadness (an emotion that, up to this point, Joy sees no use for) starts touching everything, tainting new and even old memories, including the core memories, which causes chaos and thrusts Riley’s emotions (especially Joy) into sheer panic.  Determined to keep the core memories out of Sadness’s reach, Joy snatches them out of their compartment but in the process she winds up being sucked out of the command station and spit out into Riley’s memory archives.  Unfortunately, for Joy, Sadness was sucked out alongside her and now they have to work together to get back up to the command center before too much damage is done.  With Joy and Sadness wandering hallways and entering secret compartments of Riley’s mind in order to find their way back, Anger, Disgust and Fear are left to man the station, and because of their utter confusion over how to handle this situation, Riley’s outward demeanor starts to change.  She reaches that place between Joy and Sadness where her emotions are confused and sporadic and uncontrollable and, well, heartbreaking.

There is so much here that I want to talk about and yet, it’s hard to completely explain how much this film affected me without giving away too much of the plot or how it is woven. 

But I’ll try.

I’m always intimately affected by films that accurately portray what it feels like to be a child.  I think I’ve mentioned this many times on this site.  Being a father has certainly colored the way I look at things and has created a stronger connection to that aspect of life, for sure, but I’ve always had this nostalgia associated with childhood and all that it meant to me, all that I want it to mean to my children.  Taking on children’s emotions was a HUGE undertaking and, on the outset felt like something that was unattainable.  I mean, how on earth do you capture such a confusing and emotionally unsteady time without being one-sided or completely singular in scope (focusing too heavily on ‘one kind of kid’)?

You do it like this.


I think a very telling thing, for me at least, was the drive home from the theater.  I had all these emotions swirling in my head, but when my daughter says from the backseat, “I understand the sadness” and I prodded her to explain what she meant, it all clicked.  When she told me that she understood why Riley’s happy thoughts were sad, I felt the power of what Pete Docter did here.  He created a film that not only entertained but also spoke to the deeper part of a child; a film that reached them in a very powerful way.  He knelt down to their level, looked in their eyes and said, “I get you.”  He spoke to them, not at them, and because of that he did something very, very special.

The way that the mind is explored, from abstract thoughts to suppressed fears to our dreams are all so detailed and impressively handled, but at the heart of this film is a subtle yet profound look at how intricately unified our core emotions are.  Sadness is ultimately something that no one likes to feel, and yet Docter beautifully underscores that it’s okay to be sad, that it’s healthy to understand and accept those emotions, and that sometimes, through the expression of sadness, we can find slivers of joy.  Helping children (and parents) to understand why these things happen and how we can learn from them is such a beautiful gift.


Oh, and I bawled like a baby throughout this entire movie.  From the very first moment, when Joy appears and presses her button and baby Riley opens her eyes and coos at her mother and father, I just lost it.  Memories of my baby girl’s birth, her smiling in my arms, the immense joy I felt as a father just flooded me; overtook me.  I literally had to get up with my two year old (thank you son, for providing a valid excuse) and stand in the hallway by the exit doors for the remainder of the film so I could blubber like a baby without my wife judging me. 

So grab a box of Kleenex before you sit down for this one.

In closing (wait, is there more to say?), I just have to say that I can only echo the rapturous praise this film has already received.  For me, this is a perfect movie, and movie that transcends what we expect from a specific genre and delivers an experience that we can’t take for granted.  ‘Inside Out’ truly is a film that helps us better understand ourselves and the ones we love the most. 



As one critic put it, “You will look at the screen and know yourself.”

A+

36 comments:

  1. Now that you've seen the film, how do you feel about the film's Best Picture chances?

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    1. I definitely think this will be Top 5, for sure. I said from the start, it's an unlikely BP winner, but it certainly has a shot. It would be a VERY worthy winner. I actually think that this could, with the right campaign, win Original Screenplay, which would be groundbreaking in itself. It all depends on what comes later this year, but I have a strong feeling that this one will linger.

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  2. Dude. Now you've got me choking up. Your review here has put mine to shame (I just posted mine.). Thank you for being so personal, Drew. THIS is the kind of movie review I love to read. I wish the best to you and your daughters as you all battle with all the emotions inside your heads. Having said that, I agree on all fronts. This is the first truly perfect movie of 2015.

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    1. Thanks Kevin. I just finished reading yours as well. I knew the minute I left the theater that I couldn't justly write a review for this without getting personal. And I completely agree with you...the best of the year, so far (that I've seen), and it would take a lot to best this in my eyes. It got everything right.

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  3. Lovely review Drew, I love how personal this movie is to you. I think people react differently to certain films based on our experiences and circumstances. "I’m always intimately affected by films that accurately portray what it feels like to be a child." Very well said and though I don't feel the same way, I do think it's cool when a film tries to portray human emotion as accurately as possible and the genuine emotional touches of most Pixar movies are what make them so wonderful to watch.

    On top of the emotional gratification, I think this movie is hilarious too! I mentioned about that Brazilian Helicopter Pilot, I totally can relate to that bit, ahahahaha

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    1. Yes, I enjoyed the humor here too. My four year old thought this was hilarious and was never really bothered by the sad sections. I felt like the way this was handled was so balanced that it worked in both areas really well.

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  4. Such a gorgeous post. In my opinion, your daughter's reactions, heartbreaking as they are, are perfectly normal, and your willingness to take them seriously -- as well as your intimate connection to what it is like to be a child -- is undoubtedly part of what makes you an amazing father.

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    1. Yeah, I've come to terms with how normal it is...early I'd say (I mean, she's SEVEN...like, shouldn't this be happening at, like, eleven or twelve?) but normal.

      And thank you so much. I try really hard...like you said in your post...it's like the worst and best thing ever, and I consider parenthood to be a gift so I better do my best to take care of it.

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  5. I was going to give you crap for reading your daughters diary but I can't now because I'm overcome with emotions. Ughhhh!!!! That was too sweet.

    I wish I would've liked this film as much as you did. I was so worried my kid was going to have a meltdown in the theater over this one. He has been asking me about "headquarters" quite a bit and walks around saying "Girl. girl. girl" now, so he got over it. Maybe I'll like this one better in time. Great review!

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    1. We have an understanding now that we've had our talk. She was initially irritated that I read it, but she said that actually saying everything out loud helped her understand that she was being irrational, so she's happy I did.

      So, I don't read it anymore and she doesn't hide her feelings.

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  6. I bailed about half way through...but if the rest of the post is like that opening, it's safe to say I'm absolutely done. I will be an inconsolable mess after this one. Damn.

    That journal story...sigh.

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  7. Damn, I got emotional just reading this review. I wouldn't read my daughter's diary, she's pretty much open with me if she has a problem (however that will probably change in a few years when she becomes a teenager). In the meantime I'm actually looking forward to the next movie night when my little one insists on seeing this, the trailers have peaked my interest.

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    1. Well, in my defense she's seven and I was peeking for the cutesy factor of her first entry...like, I really expected to see "Ethan is SOOOO cute and my favorite color is blue, I hope his is too" but NO, that's not what I got.

      I hope you and the little one enjoy this one!

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  8. Wow. Great write up, I see a lot fellow bloggers have children and I don't so perhaps there's more to gain from the film for them than for me. I dunno but it doesn't mean I can't understand the emotions this film could raise...so I really do want to see this. Sounds amazing.

    I can imagine its such a terrible feeling to read that your own child is sad and feels unloved, but I am in no doubt whatsoever she is greatly loved by yourself and everyone around her. You sound like a genuinely amazing father

    Personally, I remember being quite a happy kid (I cried a lot as a baby), much more happier than I am now...

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    1. I think this is a universally beautiful film. Kevin, over at Speaks in Movie Lines, just posted his review of this today, and he doesn't have kids. You should check that out.

      http://speaksinmovielines.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-review-by-kevin-powers-truth.html

      And thank you so much for the kind words. I try really hard, but they are my world, so everything is so worth it.

      And I have only the fondest memories of my childhood, which is why I have such a deep connection to that aspect of life. It's a beautiful, precious time.

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  9. I so want to fucking see this. I was going to last Sunday but the screening that morning and the next one were sold out. I ended up watching Spy instead. I felt bad for the family behind me in the line as they wanted to see Inside Out as well and they weren't going to see it on 3D.

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    1. Yeah, 3D is just not worth it, especially when you have a family. Kids hate those glasses and I've yet to see a 3D movie where I felt it was necessary at all.

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  10. Awww, as a mom of a little girl the first paragraph got to me. I've become mush. I might have to see "Spy" instead too.

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    1. Yeah, they were hard words to read...but I still urge you to see this. It's a beautiful piece of filmmaking.

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  11. Excellent review! You are certainly on point when you described the importance of Sadness. I thought the exact same thing as I watched this in theaters. What a masterful, MASTERFUL piece of filmmaking that, like you said, helps us understand the emotions of ourselves and of those around us. So far I think it's the best movie of the year.

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    1. Thanks Matt! Yeah, best of the year for me too. I haven't seen much, but I can't think of anything that could best this, honestly. It hit everything so right for me.

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  12. You are the sweetest Dad. I hope you save this and can give this to your daughter on her wedding day (sorry jumping ahead in time). This is not only a great film review but a great homage to a Dad's love for his daughter. Your daughter will have a series of ups and downs which will make any grown man just scratch his head because, if men have a hard time understanding women, they will have a harder time understanding their girl growing up. My dad was ornery when I was a teen. He was well into his 60's-an old timer who wanted his little girl to remain little. Yet, even though he could be unfair to me at times, his gentle words of encouragement and his soft touches on my shoulder radiate to this day. Your daughter will have the same feelings for sure. So save this for your daughter!!

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    1. I'm sure this blog will still be around when my children are grown...so I may have to show her this then.

      And thank you Birgit for all your kind words. I hope my daughter holds these memories we make in the highest regard as she grows up.

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  13. Beautiful review man! I love it when you gush over a film, and I figured this one would hit home with you. The film really moved me, and I must say, I've grown to appreciate it even more since I saw it last weekend. It's probably my #2 of the year so far (behind Mad Max), but I feel like I should see it again. Either way, it's one of my faves from Pixar. :D

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    1. Yeah, I couldn't hold back...the gushing was just aching to get out!

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  14. loved this movie and loved this review! i was crying in the film as well, but can imagine it was on a different level actually being a father. thanks for sharing your personal story!

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    1. Awww, you're very welcome Andrew! Thanks for stopping by.

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  15. Such a beautiful movie! It has everything to me ... It was witty, clever, and filled with emotions, and I don't mean the characters. It was wonderful. I love Pixar movies, probably more than most adults including movie lovers. This one is up there with the greats, and the best movie I have seen this year. Oh and I cried. It was a good cry of course. But then again, I cried during Lava.
    Amanda -- Speak's wife

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    1. I'm right there with you Amanda, for sure!

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  16. I don't know if you've heard this, bit this is real. It's from IMDB; "In the Canadian French version, director Xavier Dolan is dubbing Fear."

    ...I'll just let that information sink in.

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    1. I don't think I can breathe...I now want to watch this in French!

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  17. Aww, I loved the personal touch to this review. It didn't hit me as hard as I expected but it's a great film for sure.

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  18. Hey, have you heard of my new blogathon?http://conmanatthemovies.com/2015/07/28/the-film-emotion-blogathon/
    I would be so honored if you could participate!

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    1. Yes Connor! I saw that yesterday. I will do my best to participate. As you know, I'm swamped with this move, but I have already been trying to work in the time to get something up for it!

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