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IMPULSES | An ‘inside-out’ journey worth every emotion

By Herman M. Lagon

“Inside Out 2” is one of the best sequels of all ages. It is so because of its profound journey through the human psyche that promises—and delivers—a return on investment far exceeding the price of admission. Having watched this spectacular animation in its inaugural screening with my daughters Parvane and Psyche (and her plus one) last Wednesday at a bustling cinema in Festive Mall, Iloilo City, I can assure you that this is a cinematic treasure worth experiencing.

From children’s laughter at two-dimensional Puchy’s lovable antics to adults’ nods of understanding as complex psychological themes unfold, “Inside Out 2” has something everyone can connect with. The mastery with which director and story conceiver Kelsey Mann has woven the intricate theories of Freud, Erikson, Jung, Piaget, Ekman, Lazarus, and Hume into a digestible narrative is nothing short of genius.

The film’s emotional resonance was palpable as the lights dimmed in the theater (sans the occasional groupies of a few naive moviegoers). The narrative explores the turbulence of adolescence with new characters like Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui joining the familiar ensemble of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, each adding depth to the psychological exploration. This sequel does not just continue the story of now 13-year-old Riley—it enriches it, making the internal landscape of a growing girl something vivid and relatable.

The authenticity with which ‘Inside Out 2’ portrays psychological concepts is genuinely remarkable. The film meticulously explores various intricate psychological dynamics, including emotional responses, the compartmentalization of memories, and the nuanced transitions of developmental psychology. It delves into the complexities of the subconscious and unconscious mind alongside various coping and defense mechanisms, making the film both an engaging narrative and a subtle educational tool about mental wellness.

Particularly compelling is the depiction of anxiety, portrayed as a heavy ‘baggage’ burdening the young protagonist, Riley. Similarly, the emotion of embarrassment is depicted as a feeling that shies away from the spotlight, encapsulating the awkwardness often felt during teenage years. These are emotions that teenagers typically find difficult to express openly.

Additionally, Ennui’s introduction, which represents boredom, disinterest, and a lack of excitement, and Envy, marked by feelings of jealousy and resentment, enriches the film’s emotional landscape. These additions perfectly complement the existing ‘feeling’ team of teenager Riley, enhancing the film’s exploration of the complex emotional experiences of adolescence.

During the film’s climax, when all the characters realize each emotion’s validity and value, my daughters and I become tearful. This poignant moment underscored the message that a person’s rich emotional life, shaped by past and present experiences, is crucial to their identity and autonomy. It was a powerful affirmation that every feeling has a role, and Riley must make her own life choices amidst these emotional dynamics.

My daughters, deeply embedded in special education, counseling, psychology, and psychiatry, found the portrayal, symbolism, and expression of conscience, consciousness, and self-awareness particularly insightful. As we discussed the film in a dinner afterward, their enthusiasm for the potential of this movie to evolve into a broader universe akin to those of Toy Story, Transformers, and Star Wars was evident. They speculated on future storylines that might explore darker or deeper themes like “depths of depression or trauma,” “struggle with anger management,” “dealing with dark secrets,” “coping with defense mechanisms,” “exploring sexuality,” and “experiencing an existential crisis.” Or delve deeper into character development through psychological constructs like “peer pressure,” “self-discovery,” “first love encounters,” “quest for personal identity,” “young adult transitions,” “midlife crisis,” “career quests,” “parenting perspectives,” and “cultural dynamics.”

On the other hand, “Bloofy” and “Puchy,” the tandem characters mostly adored by toddlers, and Nostalgia, the cutie that the old ones can surely relate to, are brilliant examples of Pixar’s ability to create characters that resonate on multiple levels. The underlying complexity of such seemingly simple two-dimensional (Bloofy and Puchy) and grey-colored (Nostalgia) characters reflect the film’s broader theme. Riley’s friends Bree, Grace, and Vale were also a delight to see. Everyone has depth, and every emotion has its place, and understanding this can help us navigate the complexities of life.

As the narrative progresses, “Inside Out 2” embraces and revels in emotions’ messy, “brainstormy” nature. This film’s narratives are valuable resources for discussion among friends, families, educators, psychologists, guidance counselors, and other mental health professionals, as they inspire viewers to comprehend and appreciate their inner workings.

The film’s examination of social, clinical, cognitive, developmental, and contemporary psychology is particularly noteworthy. It intuitively and engagingly introduces younger viewers to concepts such as Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, Ekman’s Theory of Basic Emotions, and Lazarus’ Cognitive Appraisal Theory. The nuanced treatment of Jung’s archetypes and the dynamics of the psyche provides a rich tapestry of insights for adults.

“Inside Out 2” establishes a high standard for prospective sequels and spin-offs in the future. Due to the foundation established by this film, exploring adolescent love, early adulthood, and even midlife crises is feasible and exceedingly promising. With characters as intricately depicted as those in “Inside Out 2,” the potential for profound, meaningful narratives is virtually limitless.

“Inside Out 2” is a masterclass integrating profound psychological insight with entertainment. Pixar has once again proven its ability to craft narrative masterpieces that resonate on multiple levels, making complex psychological theories and philosophies accessible and enjoyable for audiences of all ages. This film is both a must-see and a must-experience one. It is a poignant reminder of the cinematic medium’s ability to explore and clarify the most profound aspects of our emotional selves.


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.


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