The Wolfpack (3 stars)

The Wolfpack

Interesting but inconclusive documentary about a reclusive New York family

A compelling subject is presented in a not-quite-compelling fashion in Crystal Moselle’s interesting but meandering documentary about six brothers and one sister, all home-schooled and seemingly living under permanent house-arrest (with the exception of very occasional, supervised excursions) on the 16th-floor of their New York apartment.

The Wolfpack opens with grainy video of the Angulo brothers re-enacting moments from their favourite movies, demonstrating remarkable attention to detail as they enthusiastically play through scenes from Quentin Tarantino films. Their devotion to cinema (and cheesy 80's pop music, like Baltimora’s 'Tarzan Boy') seems to be a direct result of their lack of social opportunities, a parenting choice by father Oscar which is never fully investigated or explained.

One brother relates how he ventured into Manhattan wearing a Michael Myers mask, and was quickly brought to the attention of police. Donning the disguise of a fictional character to explore the real world indicates the strange relationship that the Angulo brothers have with external reality: they rarely go out, yet their adherence to pop culture is slavish, and their first trip to their local cinema is a near religious experience for them.

Moselle claims to have met the Wolfpack siblings by chance in the street, and her documentary uses archive footage and new interviews to examine their unlikely existence as isolated naïfs in one of the world’s most populated cities. It’s apparent that this debut director has gained access to a wealth of personal material (the brothers previously used video cameras to document their lives), but The Wolfpack ultimately feels like less than the sum of its, admittedly fascinating, parts. Opting for too little questioning of the Angulo parents, social workers or neighbours, and neglecting to put forward her own opinion, Moselle allows us to rubberneck at lives which are simultaneously extraordinary and dull, but only manages to show that there are some fairly odd ideas about parenting out there.

Selected release from Fri 21 Aug.

The Wolfpack

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 20min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Crystal Moselle
  • Cast: Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo
  • UK release: 21 August 2015

Documentary about the Angulo brothers (and sister), all home-schooled, who live in their New York apartment and barely go out. Interesting but meandering; Moselle fails to ask enough questions of the brothers' parents, social workers or neighbours, making the Angulos seem both extraordinary and dull.