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Faith Reels: ‘Inside Out’ … a chat with our many selves

Faith Reels: ‘Inside Out’ … a chat with our many selves

By Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster


This is one clever movie. It explores how we think. This Disney/Pixar animated film brilliantly portrays the inside of the mind and how a personality develops.


Joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear are all characters working inside the mind of a girl and her mom and dad. There is fascinating interaction between them in how Riley Anderson deals with normal life encounters. The visual portrayal of parts of the brain is highly imaginative. Like computer racks there are aisles upon aisles of memories in translucent orbs in the long term memory section.


So the writers tackle one of the biggest upheavals in anyone’s life; a family move. Riley cycles through all five of her emotions and the discussion between these personified characters in Riley’s head is instructive. Parents will find various scenes to be teaching moments. The conversations will be interesting in those families after the movie or later when a memory from the film surfaces. The animation is so lush and real that young minds will likely have no problem recalling certain scenes that apply to their age group.


‘Inside Out’ has all the elements of a Greek drama but with the voices of Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader and many more. Children who see this will be treated to a trip into how we think, make decisions, act on emotion and generally behave in society. That’s worth the price of admission.


Adults will find childhood memories come into focus. They will recall, or wonder, how they handled similar upheavals in their lives. They may also recall other stories, whether in books or film that have dealt with similar themes. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or Grimm’s Fairy Tales may come to mind. But we now live in a movie culture and here is Hollywood taking up where books and stories read aloud have given way to the big (or little) screen.


People of faith may recall, or want to read, Martin L. Smith’s classic, A Season for the Spirit (Seabury Classics, 2004). It is daily reading for Lent but filled with wisdom surpassing any season. In his chapter, “The selves of the self” he discusses what we see in this film.


“Here I am today,” Smith writes, “asking myself who I am and wondering whether the ancient image of the self as microcosm will help me grasp the secret of becoming a more compassionate person, more expressive of the hospitality of God…Are there in fact many voices to be heard within myself, many selves to be encountered?”


Smith says the reconciliation the Holy Spirit is trying to bring about in societies is also being done inside each one of us.


“The Spirit will bring the selves of the self into a unity around the center of the indwelling Christ,” he writes. “The New Self will be a kind of inner community based on the principle of love in which there is room for everyone.”


See this movie. It’s a story for anyone who has wondered how or why decisions or reactions came to mind.


Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, we both grew up in Southern California.  They blog about films and faith atFaith Reels.


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