All the Feels (Part 2)

Last Sunday Joel made a very brief reference in his sermon to the recently released movie, Inside Out 2 as a way to illustrate that you could take in the second part of something (his two-part sermon) without the first, but you’d probably be missing out on some things. When he mentioned this movie, I got excited because I thought he might go on to elaborate more on the movie. 

He did not end up doing that in his sermon, so I feel it is my duty to let you all know that you should run, don’t walk, to see this movie (and the first one if you haven’t already). I went to see it the weekend it came out and was not disappointed. Not only is it one of those “kids’ movies” that has just as many jokes geared toward adults, the themes and lessons contained in the narrative are good for anyone to take in.

Mild spoilers will follow, so turn away now if you don’t want to know anything before you watch. 

As with the first Inside Out movie, the sequel follows the anthropomorphized depictions of the emotions that live in the main character, Riley’s, head. In the first movie, we met Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear and saw how these emotions helped Riley navigate the ups and downs of her 11-year-old life. In this follow up, we meet a new cast of emotions that move into Riley’s head as she begins to enter adolescence. These new emotions include Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and (my personal favorite), Ennui. Adolescence is a complicated period in anyone’s life, but I feel like the movie did an amazing job depicting how these new emotions vying for control inside a teenager’s mind can cause so much chaos. Or, in the case of Ennui, how overstimulation can actually lead to extreme boredom that causes us to melt into the couch, staring into our devices.

As Riley gets older, the audience is also introduced to new ways that her overall personality is being shaped, specifically how core beliefs about herself and the world are being formed. We watch as the core belief, “I am a good person” gets slowly warped by the presence of competing emotions. The main conflict in this movie is between Joy and Anxiety, the latter of whom slowly changes Riley’s core belief to “I’m not good enough.” This felt so familiar. I’m not sure how actual children watching this movie reacted to it, but suffice to say that my husband and I were sobbing. 

If I have any critique of the movie, it would be that the overarching plot felt a little similar to the first movie. In both, the central point of conflict is about how growth and maturity requires us to find ways to balance, appreciate, and find a place for all the emotions that live inside of us. One of the most moving scenes in the second movie shows Joy reaching the limits of her effervescent ability to find the joy in every situation. In a moment of defeat she yells “Do you know how hard it is to stay positive all the time?!” In the sequel, we learn that even Joy can be taken to a detrimental extreme if it is used to push aside the other emotions. 

In the end, both movies are about integration, which truly is a lifelong project, so I’m not too disappointed about the overlap between them. This second movie asks us to consider what place Anxiety has in our lives, what gifts Embarrassment can offer, and how Envy can help push us to become better people. It even suggests that perhaps the boredom of Ennui can be a generative and restful space. Adolescents have a unique experience of these sorts of emotions, but the work of integration is something we never stop doing as we move toward healing and wholeness.