Monday, July 13, 2015
Therein lies the brilliance of the conceit at the heart of the movie. Everything of consequence that happens within Riley's mind--the crumbling of her personality islands, the irretrievable loss of memories--is part of its working order. To stop working, Riley would have to be brain-dead; she still functions without her core memories, but in increasingly dysfunctional ways that become self-destructive. The moment when the control panel starts greying over and the emotions can't control it is a refreshingly lucid depiction of depression as not mere sadness, but the inability to feel emotions of any kind--but it's an 'aha' moment for a first-time viewer that this is in fact a story about depression, or at least the potential for it without a healthy exercising of one's emotions.
It is only after surveying the story as a whole that the theme of depression comes into full view. For what is depression but the mind turned against itself, marshaling its analytical and emotional power towards self-flagellation and eventual self-destruction? And what is going on inside Riley's brain but that her inner workings are working against themselves? Thus do we return to the issue of an antagonist: if Riley's brain is the protagonist of the story, working to keep her well-adjusted and healthy, it is also its own opponent, spiraling into lethargic depression when its attempts to stay relentlessly happy fail. A depressed person is their own worst enemy.
And that is why Pixar are geniuses.