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Disney's latest kids' movie has people raving about how good it is

It’s a film that’s breaking ground when it comes to emotions.

Source: MOVIECLIPS Trailers/YouTube

REILLY IS AN 11-year-old girl who has just moved school – and city. It’s a big move for her at a time when, on the cusp of teenage-hood, life around her holds some big changes.

Like all of us, she has the little ‘voices’ in her head that determine her emotions: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy.

How she deals with these emotions, and how that in turn influences her behaviour – and relationship with her parents – is the premise of Inside Out, a Pixar/Disney film that has critics raving and is on release in Ireland this weekend.

It has mums and dads wondering if an animation can help their children feel more free to express their emotions. The film (which features the voices of Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Phyllis Smith – has been a huge hit in the United States.

Inside Out’s director Pete Docter (the man behind Up and Monsters, Inc) told Vulture that the film was inspired by the changes he saw in his daughter Elie, when she turned 11. This adolescent stage was ripe for exploring on film, and what better way to do it than use animation to depict what might be going on in her head?

Bold and brave

The resulting film Inside Out – which has already been released in the US and hits Irish cinemas on 27 July – has an 89% rating on RottenTomatoes, and scores of good reviews.

US director Michael Moore gushed about the film on Facebook, saying:

Pixar has made a bold, brave, audacious and loving piece of cinema — and I believe it will impact thousands (millions?) of young people for the rest of their lives.

pixar inside out Source: Facebook

He’s not the only one who has been bowled over by the movie’s approach to emotions.

“It’s OK to feel sad”

132385_ori Source: Rotten Tomatoes

Writing in Business Insider, Caroline Moss said the film “helped me to understand something my therapist has been trying to convince me of since I was a teenager: It is okay to feel sad”.

In her article, she details how, after being diagnosed with depression at a young age, she struggled for years with the feeling of sadness, calling it “the ultimate enemy”.

My biggest fear was always feeling sad. But feeling sad is healthy, normal, human. It took a Pixar movie to teach me this.

What about Irish children?

132386_ori Source: Rotten Tomatoes

Irish child and adolescent psychotherapist Colman Noctor – author of Cop On – has seen Inside Out, and told TheJournal.ie it “holds a lot of potential”.

“When words fail us, that’s when behaviour takes over,” he said. When a teen lashes out verbally, or a 10-year-old slams a door, it’s usually because they can’t articulate their feelings.

Noctor thinks the film would be especially relevant for ‘tweenagers’ aged 10 – 13.

“If we are able to speak about emotion more, then you have a consequential drop in behaviour outbursts,” he explained.

My concern is that we have emojis and smiley faces which in some way might lead us to label an emotion, but it doesn’t do anything to enable us to understand it.

The film, said Noctor, helps children to understand that “bad emotions aren’t necessarily bad things”, and that feelings like fear, anger or disgust “have a role in keeping us safe”.

While films dealing with mental health are “usually dark, adult stuff”, said Noctor, Inside Out is the antithesis to this: it’s bright, fun, and engaging.

The importance of metaphor

129563_ori Source: RottenTomatoes

“The hardest thing to do is find a common language between an adult and a child”, said the psychotherapist, outlining how metaphor is usually used to help explain concepts like depression to youngsters.

The movie helps majorly in this regard. “It is giving a template of a language that both parents and children can understand,” said Noctor.

The film impressed Noctor so much, he wrote a lengthy blog post for St Patrick’s about it.

Writing on the site, he said:

Emotionality is something that we all struggle with. More specifically learning to put language on emotion can be a real challenge. One of the core concepts of any therapy is to facilitate a person to put words or meaning on feelings which can be a significant challenge. Once we can name a feeling we can begin to understand it, and when we understand it we can begin to deal with it.

The film is out on this weekend, and the buzz about it is loud: this is a film that is not only entertaining for parents and children, but could end up improving the lives of those who see it.

But the last word must go to Noctor, who has some sage advice for parents:

If you go with your kids and don’t have a chat about it afterwards, it is an opportunity missed.

- Originally published 11 July

Read: Sick of (re)watching Frozen with the kids? Here’s what Disney has planned next>

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