The Wolfpack – Review

The feature film debut for Director Crystal Moselle is a captivating look into a unique isolated family located smack dab in New York City.  Click through for my full review of this gripping documentary.

The Wolfpack is the story of the Angulo family and in particular the 6 brothers who have rarely left their New York City apartment.  At first glance the film has a creepy vibe that really screams poor kids being imprisoned by their nut-so father.  But the more we get to understand the real dynamics the more the reality sets in about the family.  The brothers and their one sister are products of their parents fears and worries. 

The WolfPack Director Crystal Moselle Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The Parents:  I'll start by explaining the least fleshed out part of the documentary.

Oscar and Susanne Angulo are a couple who's life we simply see in a few candid moments where Susanne explains her past trips abroad.  Oscar is the real enigma of the film.  He is interviewed on a few different occasions and he comes across as less of an abusive father and more as a confused and lost man.  Obviously these parents looked at their hard times trying to support a family of 7 as a means to isolate themselves from everyone else.  Oscar's Hari Krishna religion has impacted a lot of their choices.  We even have a very intriguing moment where Susanne explains to one of her sons that her own family, in particular her mother, have issues with Oscar.  It's something that isn't revisited or talked about again in the film.  But there must have been a really harsh break from Susanne's family as she chose Oscar and the kids.  The boys do talk about their father "slapping" their mother and that abuse is something that also isn't fully tackled.  It's understandable that Director Crystal Moselle may have not wanted to open any truly dark wounds, but it also keeps their parents at a distance throughout the film.  The most impactful sequence is near the end of the film, when the family has gone on a trip to an apple orchard, where Susanne and Oscar literally split from each other to see different sides of the orchard.  It is visually an amazing moment to capture for the documentary, but also showcases how Susanne may well have finally grasped that her sons are more important then her husband.  The sad truth is that the lone girl in the family, Vishnu, continues to follow her father. 

The Wolfpack:  6 Angulo Brothers and their love of film.

The Wolfpack Angulo Brothers eating dinner Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

If the film stays clear of the parents story, it certainly dives head on into the boys one true outlet, motion pictures.  The boys have grown out of their father's musical leanings to find the power behind film.  They literally have learned about life through their extensive movie collection.  The doc spends a lot of the time showcasing the amazing extent the boys have gone to recreate their favorite films.  They craft their own costumes from household items, they rewrite the scripts, and act all the parts.  It's obviously a passion that the brothers share and the one outlet that may lead them to having fulfilled lives outside of their isolated youths.  We mainly jump between the three older brothers and the younger three are the smiling fellas in the background.  But their unified front as filmmakers is the real heart of the story.  Instead of harping on the destructive nature of isolating the family these young men have found a real outlet for their hopes and dreams.  We even get to see how their love of film leads the oldest brothers to focus their first experiences outside of the home to be on film sets.  You can see how the film world could be their way into society.  It's heartwarming, moving and ultimately the real power of the documentary.  Instead of a sad story there is a lot of hope in this documentary because of the impact of movies on these boys lives.

Overall this documentary showcases a unique family that many people find hard to believe could happen in NYC.  You'd expect some small town family to have this isolation.  But the fact that these boys live in NYC is just crazy.  They see out into the be city but have no clue about what is actually out there.  The way in which Crystal Moselle focuses on the boys fascination with film really allows for great moments of levity and sympathy.  But the best parts of the film aren't fully tackled.  We don't get a full story of the parents choices that lead them to live here and why not in Scandinavia as Oscar teases in one his rare moments on screen.  There are profound moments like when the boys go to Coney Island by themselves.  The way in which all but one of the brothers embrace their fun of the beach, but the lone brother's continued state of isolation by not going into the water is very intriguing.  Their trip on the subway is amazing as we see them openly talk about being fearful of other people.  There is even an intriguing moment of paranoia where one brother thinks they are being followed.  Literally he is right, we the audience are totally following him.  I really enjoyed seeing the impact film can have on these guys lives, but I wanted so much more conclusion or explanation.  Since the film's journey from Sundance to Tribeca the boys coverage has been really amazing.  The interviews the boys and Crystal have given has really opened the full story even more.  So I would say, see this film.  Skip watching trash like Terminator or Magic Mike XXL and give the Angulo family your time.  But once you've witnessed the film make sure you Google their continued story.  Read and watch more about these guys to get a more complete story.  This is a rare doc that isn't fully complete in my eyes but still one of the films you should certainly see this year.  Invest the time and you'll get a glimpse into a really fun and inventive family.  I just wish we'd learned more about the daughter in the film and of course the real story behind the parents.

For more information about the film and where to see it please go, here.

The Wolfpack Poster Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

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