Inside Out

By Russell Davidson | Drama
A bullied young girl seeks out her estranged mother with the help of a care worker.

Colette is a young girl feeling especially lonely around the holidays. She lives in a group care home in Scotland, where she is bullied and called a "weirdo" by the other kids.

One of the younger care workers, Jimmy, catches Colette at a particularly bad time and spends the day with her. Chided for taking her out on an unauthorized excursion, Jimmy begins to wrangle Colette home. But she convinces Jimmy to take her on an unauthorized visit to see her estranged mother -- and helps her face some difficult emotions along the way.

Written and directed by Russell Davidson, this quietly resonant short drama explores the emotional landscape of a young girl in foster care, adrift in a system so full of bureaucracy that often forgets about the fragile emotions of the children in it. Sometimes when kids turn into "cases," it can be easy to forget that they're developing human beings with longings, fears and grief that need the kind, steady guidance of a caring adult to navigate.

Shot with a muted color palette and naturalistic style, the storytelling is quiet and observant, layering introspective moments with more overt incidents of conflict. The camera has an eye for a telling glance or gesture, and an ear for the feelings and thoughts that are unsaid and pushed down. The interplay between the inner life of children and the layers of social and bureaucratic protocol and regulation is delineated with sensitivity.

Jimmy's arc as a care worker has a sharp eye for how the system can wear down even the most idealistic worker, and while it's understandable in such a difficult milieu, the shell of wariness has a cost, in the shape of children who often feel overlooked and insignificant.

The film features a beautiful performance by actor Erin Watson as Colette, as the world-weary young girl wrestling with loneliness, as well as the sadness of missing a mother that can't take care of her. She's matched by actor Gerard Miller as Jimmy, in a deeply empathetic and impassioned role. Jimmy is young and impetuous, but he genuinely connects with the children in his charges. And while he may not follow all the rules, he also recognizes the endurance of children's attachments to their parents, however troubled those parents are. And he also intuits what Colette needs to move forward.

The ending of "Inside Out" offers a humble sense of hope, reminding us of the resilience of human beings. It also is a sweet, understated understanding that, even if their situations in life require maturity and gravity beyond their years, children still need to feel like children. They need not just safety and security, but also moments of carefree joy, as well as the presence of caretakers who can meet them where they are at, with compassion and understanding.

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