The most fascinating thing about “The Wolfpack,” a documentary which premiered at Sundance this year, can be read in the plot description: “Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch.”
The one doing the locking is the patriarch of the household, a figure kept intentionally enigmatic until about half way through the film (though, once he’s revealed, he is altogether underwhelming – one wonders why he was kept in the dark for so long.) There are five Angulo brothers, and two sisters. Watching them memorize and reenact their favorite films in their cramped living room is a truly engaging though often terrifying sight: take the reenactments of ‘Halloween,’ where one of the boys dons a paper-machéd Michael Myers mask, or a scene from ‘No Country For Old Men’ in which one boy hunts the other through the narrow hallways with an improvised prop semi-machine gun. As actors, they all commit without breaking once, making the whole thing both uneasy and noble.
That’s the general mood of the film, which consistently straddles a line, clumsily, between real dread and a sort of love for its subjects. The story is one which any aspiring documentarian would kill to get their hands on – indeed, the method in which filmmaker Crystal Moselle got involved with the family is never addressed – and most of the legwork seems to be done by the tale itself, rather than any directorial inspiration or decisions. Still, the portrait painted here is thick with material, even if it isn’t used specifically, and we are allowed to root for the boys at the same time we watch them, and the world around them, with constant concern.
If the movie succeeds in being anything other than a lucky study, it is in this: we feel, at times for very different reasons, as afraid as the boys and their family do. While their terror comes from a place of constant utter isolation, we are able to feel alone with them because we are first made to be afraid – at moments, of the boys themselves. And by the end of the film, we do get the sense that cinema has given us some sort of community, even if it’s only out of some great terror.
The Wolfpack was on hand at the film’s New York premiere Tuesday. After the screening A-list attendees headed to Santos Party House for a very fun prom themed bash.[slideshow]