Friday, 17 July 2015

The Wolfpack

Title: The Wolfpack
Director: Crystal Moselle
Released: 2015

Plot: Documentary about the Angulo brother’s who were confined to their four-bedroom apartment, homeschooled by their mother and whose only knowledge of the world outside of their home came from the movies they obsessively watch and recreate.


Review: Falling somewhere between “Be Kind Rewind” and “Tarnation” this documentary is a hard one to place, especially when it paints its picture in such broad strokes of raw creativity as we see the brothers recreating their favourite movies using home made props with a stunning level of detail, while at same time subjecting the audience to the brothers telling depressing tales of years were they’d only get to see the world outside of the apartment once a year if at all.

A documentary really created by accident when director Crystal Moselle who here makes her directing debut, chanced upon the brothers while they were walking down the street, taken by their unusual appearance with their waist-long hair and dressed like the cast of “Reservoir Dogs” she decided to find out more. She went on to become friends with them and set about filming them for the documentary, while combining it with home movies as well as footage from the brother’s various film making projects.

The brothers are a friendly and frequently entertaining group and every bit the wolfpack of the title, while their younger sister who appears sporadically throughout the film seemingly chooses to live in a world of her own, which the same could also be said for their father who spends most of the film asleep or drinking locked away in his bedroom and when he does finally appear seems to offer little reasoning for why he would choose to lock his sons away from the outside world. The boy’s shy mother meanwhile seems to unquestionably follow Oscar’s rules, while the boys themselves see him as generally an old hippy and why he views the world the way he does, while enforcing them we are told with his aggressive temper.

The brothers love of movies is clear throughout, as they take down the scripts of the films they are recreating, not by downloading from the internet but rather by frequently pausing the film and writing it down, a process it doesn’t bare to think of how long this takes to do. The props and costumes they create meanwhile are also incredibly impressive, especially when you look at things like their cardboard guns complete with slot in clips or their Batsuit made out of egg boxes.

When it comes to their taste in movies, it seems that the brothers tend to lean towards films featuring macho or strong confident male characters naming the "Godfather" parts 1 & 2 as their favourite, while we also see them recreating scenes from Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" aswell as Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" perhaps looking to replace the absence of a strong male figure in their own lives. At the same time its during their explanation of their film making process that often gives the biggest insights into their lives and more often their childhood growing up in this almost cult-like environment that their father has created in their housing project apartment.

With such equal time being dedicated to the brother’s love of films as it is to their unusual situation, it does make for an uneven viewing experience which leaves you never sure how you should be feeling about the film. At the same time when Moselle started documenting the boys it would seem that they were already making steps to finally entering the real world and as such tends to shoot them with a restrained style, almost as if she didn’t want to do anything which might affect their path to recovery and essentially living some kind of normal life. The film however does capture many of these first steps with the brothers frequently falling back on their film knowledge to handle these confused feelings as they compare big trees to “The Lord of the Rings”, while their naivety shines through frequently as they comment after going to see “The Fighter” that they are happy their cinema ticket money is going to Christian Bale.

An interesting documentary and one which contains numerous fascinating moments, but at the same time lacks anything to deserve giving it a return watch, though you may find yourself wanting a follow up documentary to see how the boys do, especially when it ends on the positive note of them finally venturing into the real world and finding their own sense of identity. The real question now though is how Moselle will follow it up, especially with the pressure of the film winning the grand jury prize at Sundance I would be interested to see if she sticks with documentaries or moves into making some movies of her own.

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