2015 / Director. Crystal Moselle.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
A chance meeting in Manhattan's Lower East Side between documentarian Crystal Moselle and the six brothers that make up The Wolfpack proved to be fruitful. Dressed rather strikingly in black suits and trench coats, with their long black hair and Ray Bans, Moselle commented that the Angulo siblings looked like the Reservoir Dogs.
She was right. In more ways than one - Raised by a hippy mother and an oppressive, over-bearing religious father, the Angulo siblings existed, for almost their entire life, in a four-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, hardly ever being exposed to the world outside their window.
Only having been granted freedom a handful of times in their entire lives the boys only real experience with real-life is through watching Hollywood films like Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight and Reservoir Dogs, which they also remake in their apartment with themselves as cast and crew. There's joy to be had watching the brothers process in remaking their favorite films; from the pain-staking transcription of dialogue through to prop and costume design, the brothers revel in each step, taking everything very seriously, even the performances.
The documentary itself is as intimate as it is claustrophobic. For the first hour we are locked inside the apartment, the limiting space of high-rise life and the boys personas playing for the camera means when we finally step outside we feel some of the relief with the brothers. We can stretch, untwist and decompress. The boys themselves are remarkably well-adjusted given their odd upbringing. They prove to be articulate, brave and willing. One gets the feeling that a slight nudge this way or that and they very well could have been an apartment full of Mowgli's crawling the walls and completely feral. It's a credit to them, then, that they aren't. There's a deep bond that runs between them all and the picture grasps hold of that an highlights the closeness and the love they feel for each other.
While there's a love that flows between the boys, there is the matter of the father, Oscar, an oppressive presence in the film for the first half. He is rarely seen but always felt, his temper and struggle with alcohol hangs over the film like a toxic cloud. When he finally does appear and speaks he rambles and makes little sense and justifies his treatment of his children by saying he is trying to keep them free from the corruption and impurities of the outside world. Oh, the irony.
While it is compelling viewing (listening to one brother's recap of the day he just walked out is particularly moving) the film doesn't probe as deep as one might hope. Hints of abuse from the father are given but never explored, nor is the boys life post-departure from the apartment save for one of them, but THE WOLFPACK makes up for its flaws by serving the audience a story so macabre and bizarre it has to be seen to be believed.