This film, man. It’s different to anything we’ve reviewed before as part of our collaboration and that’s a good thing I think. I have no idea where to start on this documentary but I’ll give it a damn good go anyway, because that’s just the kind of girl I am.
I think that this will be the last in our Blog Free or Die Hard series for a while, in favour of Christmas movies (yey!). Jill and I haven’t discussed this at length yet, though we’re both totes up for it, so watch this tinsel encrusted space! (Basically, I cannot bloody wait).
Also, for the first time in forever I’m going to put the tree up before mid-December, so that gives you an idea of how festive I’m starting to feel.
But to the movie. As always *spoilers* ahead!
I might add here that my enjoyment of this film came in part from not knowing much about it. I got a brief synopsis but then deliberately didn’t dig any deeper because I didn’t want to spoil it for myself. I’m not afraid to admit that I wasn’t even sure it was a documentary.
The Wolfpack (2015)
IMDB Synopsis: 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 Angulo Brothers are six brothers, ranging from (at the time of filming) 11 to 18. They are Bhagavan, Govinda, Jagadisa, Mukunda, Narayana, Krisna. Confined to the four-bedroom, sixteenth floor apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan they share with their sister Visnu, and their mother and father, the boys are home schooled and rarely leave the building.
Mother Susanne educates the boys the best she can from the comfort of their own home, while they gain the rest of their life experience from the movies. Such favourites as Reservoir Dogs (1992) and The Dark Knight (2008) become their outlets, which they re-enact together and sometimes film on a shaky camcorder.
Oscar, the boys’ father guards the only front door key and strictly monitors (and more or less prohibits) unauthorised trips outside. He maintains that the streets outside are like a ‘prison’ and worries about the danger of drugs. This means that the boys have hardly set foot outside their door in all their life-times and never interact with anybody outside their family.
Things changed though, the day Mukunda (then 15) left the apartment without his father’s knowledge or permission and, in his own words, “one thing lead to another.” (Going out in a homemade Michael Myers mask can do that for you, yo). This documentary focuses on this event and how it changed things not only for Mukunda but for all the brothers.
The film is a patch work of home footage, interviews with the boys and clips of them re-enacting their favourite films. Tarantino is a regular feature, as are Christian Bale and Heath Ledger‘s Joker. The boys have the performances down, and play out each scene with painstaking detail.
We learn more about Oscar and Susanne’s origin story, of how they met when they were young and idealistic, and how they came to be here. Susanne is loving and protective of her boys, though clearly regretful when it comes to how it all turned out.
Oscar, well I don’t understand a single word of what he says, even with subtitles. I don’t know what has driven his decision to keep his family virtual prisoners under his rule but I’m sure he believes it’s for their own protection.
He beats his wife (something the brother’s reveal) and there’s heavy implication that she’s even more controlled than her children, taking the brunt of his irrational behaviour. This isn’t really touched upon too much but there’s a lurking menace there in the background.
The boys, following their brother’s original escape, start to head out as a group and slowly but surely begin to interact with the world around them. Dad can’t stop them as they grow older and even Mum begins to reach outside their circle, by contacting her own mother who she hasn’t seen since she had her children.
I’m going to go with my opinion that the less you know about it, the more you’ll be blown away by this story and stop here. This post will be a little less waffley than usual as a result but there you go. I’ll obvs still be asking the hard-hitting questions because that’s my thing. So…
How will/do the boys adapt to the outside world? Will they maintain traditional relationships, meet girls, make friends, etc?
What the fucking hell is Oscar on about in every single one of his interviews? Why did Susanne put up with all this in the first place?
And – how is it that each and every one of the Angulo brothers seems kind and lovely, and more importantly well-balanced, when they’ve lead anything but a normal life?
God. I watched this with my heart in my throat. It’s very emotional. It’s also crazy that this is a true story and that this family really exists.
The Angulo brothers are beautiful, with long, long hair but what stands out most about them is the purity of their souls (*vom* at my corny wording, but it’s true). I guess it’s their innocence we see primarily, they’re kind and gentle, and despite the fact there’s some very real anger and resentment between father and some of his sons, they never resort to bitterness.
Of course, we don’t know how things are when the cameras aren’t rolling but on the face of these interviews, they just seem lovely. I would like to hang with them, please.
There are elements of this life I would like to know much more about, particularly the question of “Why?” (really how can this happen?). But also, I’d like to know more about their sister, Visnu who is described as “special” by one of the boys.
I just want more really, and could watch and listen to them for hours and hours. Their props and costumes, mostly constructed with paper, are incredible. Almost as impressive as the real thing!
Alas, I had to make do with this brief glimpse into a life less ordinary. I fear I’ve played this lovely film down but please, if you love the weird and wonderful, and the movies, this is one for you. Promise.
My Rating: 5/5 LOVED. I’m still thinking about it this morning with a mixture of awe and sadness, so that can only be a good thing.
What did Wifey think? Pop on over to see for yourselves.
NB: This Wiki page is really fascinating the and tells more about how the Director came into contact with the Angulos.