wolfpack

The Wolfpack is by far the most uncomfortable film I’ve ever watched – and I mean in the best way.

This documentary is an expertly crafted piece that centers on an extremely uneasy, yet utterly fascinating, story about the Angulo brothers who have spent their entire lifetimes locked away in a lower east side Manhattan apartment.

The brothers — who have manes of jet black hair down to their lower backs like some kind of Hispanic Rapunzels (their father is from South America) and have names from the ancient language of San Script — spend their time meticulously recreating their favorite films as their only means of activity. They build props and costumes out of cereal boxes and tin foil and other accouterments around their government-housing apartment.

The narrative reflects the kind of life the boys live, floating around in a limited space inside the enclosed apartment. There are few shots outside its walls, but we don’t really even know why the boys are forced to stay inside until about 15 minutes in, when the ominous father figure is introduced. All we know is that we are watching a few socially awkward brothers get way too into their imaginary play game.

Stitched together with a series of interviews and shots of them interacting with their father in the same way a prisoner would a warden, director Crystal Moselle hooks you slowly, meticulously, and skillfully. The term “cringe-worthy” does little justice to the twisted, roundabout, gnarled morals of their father, who fancies himself a religious figure in his own right and with that authority insists the outside world is too dangerous for his six boys. While they gallivant around their small quarters, a world of drugs and crime flashes by them outside, the dangers of which are constantly preached by their parents as a deterrent for the boys to ever want to leave the house.

After the introduction we are then led through the boys’ coming of age, spearheaded by the oldest, Bhagavan, who at the tender age of 18, ventures out of the apartment unaccompanied for the first time. This eventually leads to social service intervention, which throws the whole family dynamic for a loop. We watch first hand as the boys begin to question their father, but also as they encounter the world for the first time. It is a wonderful, terrifying experience, and that’s just for the audience. It’s like condensing an entire childhood from being a toddler to flying the coop into an hour and a half.

The boys do it with style as well, donning all black overcoats and sunglasses, harking back to the heroes of their favorite Quentin Tarantino films. These cinematic figures inspire the boys to break free of their patronly prison and is a testament to the power of film, as well as the human will. As if their circumstances were not enough to make them sympathetic or even likable, they come out the other end as razor sharp young men, whose cinematic education allow them to assimilate into the world not as strangers, which they are, but just dudes. Weird and a little off putting, but still dudes.

The Wolfpack is miraculous and a joy to watch.