One of the most important films to be released in the past few years, is one that tells a deeply personal story, whose message and feeling will linger in your head much longer than a film has any right to. Read on to find out why Bo Burnham’s Inside is being called a masterpiece by viewers and critics everywhere.
Bo Burnham’s new film Inside is a deeply personal, heart wrenching depiction of the struggles of mental health and depression. Written, directed, performed, filmed, and edited by Bo himself, the special delves into his experiences throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you aren’t familiar with Bo Burnham, he got his start as a Youtuber over 15 years ago, which makes him one of the first comedians on Youtube, and helped bring on the creation of platforms like TikTok and Vine. Some refer to him as the father of online comedy. He then moved from Youtube to stage comedy and has made multiple successful comedy specials which you can stream on Netflix, such as ‘What’ and “Make Happy’.
Inside is Bo’s newest comedy special, yet it is far from that. It would best be described as an experimental film, combining elements of documentary, musical, comedy, and drama. The film acts as its own ‘Making of’ documentary. The premise of the film is that after abandoning stage comedy because of panic attacks on stage, Bo was ready to try and make a comeback. When the pandemic struck, that became an impossibility. He instead decides to produce a one man show, out of one room. The story features a characterization of Bo himself, but is a dramatized version of Bo’s true reality, demonstrating the true struggle and desperation he feels as a content creator. The story may be set during the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s message does not exclusively belong to it, as for many people struggling with mental health, it is an everyday problem. Yet setting the film in the pandemic makes this story of mental health relatable to everyone.
The film is made with Bo’s unique comedy and humour, which may turn some viewers away. Yet the story underneath it all is such an important watch in today’s culture, that I would highly recommend watching the entire thing, even if the comedy does not appeal to you. Comedy has long been known to be used as a cover for pain, and even though it may not be apparent right from the start, it is made evident that Bo uses comedy in this special to mask his true feelings. A very obvious example of this is the song ‘All Time Low’ where he cuts from a serious talk into a song. But Bo does let his guard down and is vulnerable with the audience in some segments of the film.
Through the editing of the film, we can see his real emotions on display through the process of making the special. The shots of frustration he has left intact at the beginning and end of comedic segments particularly resonate with me as a content creator, as it shows how clips typically look before they’ve been cleaned up through editing. But Bo has left these clips in intentionally. Editing can be funny that way, as sometimes when you watch your clips through, you see something special that was not intended to go in the final cut, but ends up reworking how your film ends up going. At TPM our series ‘The X.Files’ had alternate cuts which were created as a joke after we had shot the intended ending, yet it became the real ending. Bo Burnham may not have set out at the beginning to create something so raw and vulnerable, yet as his project expanded and time went on, the story he was telling evolved. Sometimes the journey is the goal.
The special was filmed over the course of an entire year, which Bo admits he did not want or expect it to go on for that long. One of the hardest hitting moments is when Bo turns 30 which he states that the film should have been done long before this. For creative projects, one can have a general idea about how long something should take, and with such a fixed time approach, the toll of a battle with depression becomes apparent. I’m sure many can relate to the difficulty of completing a project when suffering from depression. I’ve been there myself and still bear that weight with my personal work sometimes. Yet the incompletion of a project can be seen by some as laziness or procrastination, but sometimes the reality is beyond what can be seen. Bo’s long delay to complete this project and the emotion seen throughout, shows the hidden side of depression that nobody else sees. The entire point of the film is spelled out in the song ‘Comedy’, specifically stating that he is “healing the world with comedy”.
The comedy special truly is, well… special. It provides a tool for starting conversations about mental health and an understanding for those who do not experience mental health struggles. For those struggling with mental health it can also be seen as a sign that you are not alone. Bo gets serious and drops the comedy he uses as a coping method, to talk with the audience about suicide, and gives a message to any audience member who may be struggling. But Bo also admits to a common struggle where it feels as if the world is drowning you, and you are barely treading water. You don’t want to die, just take a break from life rather than an outright end. Bo is also seen watching his own words, demonstrating that he also needs encouragement to push through. One of the lines in ‘Goodbye’ is “How bout I sit on the couch and I watch you next time”.
This so-called comedy special, aims to help those who struggle with mental health, but also can be used as a guide for those who do not understand the struggle. People in your life might not open up all the details of their struggle, but Inside finds a way to bridge the gap of understanding. Not everyone’s struggle is the same, and may not compare to Bo’s depiction, but for somebody who does not understand depression, it is a very strong starting point for beginning to understand.
Inside currently has extremely high reviews, including 6 Emmy nominations, and is already becoming a point of cultural expression in many online circles. With many threads discussing the film, and individual threads for every song throughout the film, it is sparking even more discussion about the current generation’s mental health crisis. Many people are calling it an artistic masterpiece and I would not be one to deny it. As a creator myself, I would be ecstatic to ever make anything that comes even remotely close to the powerful message of this film.
If you’ve gotten this far in the article and you’ve yet to watch the film, it probably goes without saying but I highly recommend you watch it. And if you’ve already watched it, why not watch it again. The feeling you are left with after watching Inside stays in your brain much longer than a film should, but the power of this film justifies it living rent free in your brain. You can stream Inside on Netflix right now, and find the soundtrack on all your music streaming platforms.
And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that”. Let me know if you want more articles like this, or another look at Inside as there are many other ways to look at the film.