Made by documentarian Crystal Moselle, The Wolfpack is a deeply troubling and incredibly powerful film that tells a personal story, whilst dealing with larger themes. The subjects are the Angulo family and inparticularly the group of brothers nicknamed ‘The Wolfpack’.
Home schooled and raised in seclusion, the brothers would go months, sometime years, without ever leaving their apartment under the rule of their abusive father. Separated from the world, their only form of connection with it was through film and the siblings would spend most days re-making their favourites in their apartment.
It’s the type of story that we’ve seen on the news before, which usually has a tragic end, and Moselle offers us a rare glimpse into what it might be like to grow up in an emotional and physical prison.
It can be, at times, a difficult watch and through homemade film and first-hand accounts, The Wolfpack terrifyingly portrays a family living in fear of their leader, whose need for control combined with alcohol could end up in physical abuse against their mother.
Whilst film quite clearly acted as a way of escape from their home life, the question at the centre of this documentary is whether it truly connected them to the outside world, or rather twisted their perception of it.
The first film we see the group reenact is Reservoir Dogs with guns that look they were made out of tinfoil. This is the first of many films that the brothers remake, that heavily feature violence; films like No Country For Old Men, The Dark Knight and Pulp Fiction.
When one of the young Angulos’ tells the story of a rare visit into the city dressed up as Michael Myers from Halloween, which resulted in him being arrested and hospitalised, the suggestion that too much of anything will undoubtedly influence the way you think – something mother Angulos reiterates in the film – raises an interesting debate about art and its influence.
Yet, whilst The Wolfpack is an uncomfortable experience – especially when confined within the walls of the family’s home – it’s moving and strangely uplifting at the same time.
As the young boys become men and start to make their own life decisions, we get to see the family take their first steps into the world. Seeing the brothers go to the beach, go in the sea, go on a date and yes, even go the cinema for the first time, is a wonderful thing.
The hero of the film though is their mother, who all the children clearly love deeply, who also begins to make changes to her life as her family begins to leave. The film’s most powerful moment comes from her making her own choices and whilst there’s no big dramatic change, the smallest moment in her letting go of her husbands hand, is enough to make you want to punch the air in the grand scheme of the film.
This is perhaps the biggest success of The Wolfpack, in that it beautifully documents the complexity of the human condition and one family’s love for each other. Whilst the ideas about the magic of film and how it can be a transportative experience are absorbing, it’s the Angulos family’s story that will stay with and haunt you long after the film’s end.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com