Imagine spending your entire childhood inside a small Lower East Side Manhattan apartment. Under strict rule of a paranoid father and an acquiescent mother, you could watch all the movies you wanted, but you could never experience the sun on your skin, the street under your feet or the compassion of a stranger. You were taught to fear everything. And you did.
This was the life of the seven Angulo kids, who are the subject of the award-winning documentary “The Wolfpack,” which just opened at Village 8 Theatres. Filmed by first-time director Crystal Moselle, the story is a fascinating portrait of the six brothers and how they make sense of forced captivity.
The film opens on the brothers re-enacting a scene from “Reservoir Dogs” — their costumes mimic the originals, the dialogue and accents are impeccable, their commitment to perfection is eerie. It’s like they’ve been studying the Quentin Tarantino movie for years — and we soon learn that they, indeed, have been. One brother details how he records dialogue from movies line by line, character by character — so that ultimately, he and his siblings can make their own version to pass the time.
The documentary includes brief interviews with both parents, but the father, especially, doesn’t say enough to explain his actions. The mother, we learn, is passive and often had more rules than the kids — she implies abuse but never shows resentment toward her husband.
For six homeschooled boys whose only interaction with the outside world is what they see out of the window and in the movies, they come across as extremely intelligent, they’re aware they might be viewed as different, and they admit their curiosities to experience life outside the four walls.
Things take a turn when one of the older brothers garners enough courage to sneak out — wearing a Michael Myers “Halloween” mask so his father won’t recognize him — and is quickly arrested and forced to spend time in a psych hospital. This is, presumably, when the world finds out about the Angulo family, and the other children are ordered to see a therapist as well.
My only complaint was that I found myself craving more information, more details. The documentary could have used an intro and some explanation throughout. How old are the boys? How intensive was their homeschooling? Where does the family’s money come from? There also appeared to be some level of abuse going on in the household, but that issue was often skirted. The younger sister also was rarely discussed or mentioned.
“The Wolfpack” won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Fest, and it’s evident why — the film shows that even in arguably dire conditions, hope prevails.