Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch. Nicknamed, ‘The Wolfpack,’ the brothers spend their childhood reenacting their favorite films using elaborate homemade props and costumes. Their world is shaken up when one of the brothers escapes and everything changes.
‘The Wolfpack’ is an intriguing documentary about a family who lived in an apartment in Manhattan for fourteen years, leaving only once or twice a year under strict guidance. The family of seven children (six boys, one girl) and their mother were kept inside on the wishes of their father, who had the only key for the apartment. This isn’t a documentary about abuse or about people being locked up against their will, but more about how a family can function in such a claustrophobic environment where they don’t interact with the outside world. Debut documentarian Crystal Moselle produces some solid work exploring this situation by introducing us to the likable inhabitants of the house, whilst also touching on the reasoning behind their father keeping them inside for all these years.
The film begins with footage of the brothers re-enacting scenes from ‘Reservoir Dogs’, and the documentary will go on to explore how the children functioned through watching countless films and TV shows, using the events portrayed on screen to formulate their worldview. With nothing else to guide them about the wider world, films and TV were their portal and the movies they watch inspire and motivate them in unusual and interesting ways. The subject of the family came to light when one of the boys decided to leave the apartment for a wander around the neighbourhood one day against his father’s wishes and discovering that the outside world wasn’t as dangerous as he was told. Moselle treats her subjects with curiosity and it’s enjoyable spending time with the family as they talk about their favourite films and what they do to pass the time.
Where the film is less successful is in its exploration and discussion of why their father chose to keep them all indoors, and why their mother went along with it. There are the makings of a strong emotional journey with their mother’s story, but a heartbreaking phonecall to her mother aside, Moselle never pushes as strongly in this direction, choosing to focus on the brothers. ‘The Wolfpack’ is a curious peek behind the curtain of an unusual family that succeeds in depicting their unorthodox lifestyle, but it falls down by neglecting to explore how this environment developed.
Directed By: Crystal Moselle
Starring: The Angulo Family