The Wolfpack, film review: Moselle's modern-day folk tale leaves a lot of questions unanswered

(15) Crystal Moselle, 90 mins
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The Independent Culture

Moselle's documentary is fascinating and a little perplexing, a modern-day Kasper Hauser-style folk tale about six brothers (and a sister) living in New York who spent almost their entire childhood locked away from society. Their father has a misguided idea about protecting them from the dangers of the outside world and so tries to cocoon them. What doesn't make any sense at all is that the father, desperate to keep them away them from drugs and violence, nonetheless encourages them to watch Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight.

"Movies helped us create our own kind of a world," one of the brothers tells us as we watch their elaborate home movie reconstructions of their favourite scenes from those movies. Using cereal boxes and yoga mats, the brothers design Batman and Joker costumes. They make themselves surprisingly life-like papier-maché guns and knives which, in one comical scene, even the New York cops seemed to think are real. They swagger round their apartment in Reservoir Dogs-style suits and even recreate the notorious ear-cutting scene.

If The Wolfpack is a hoax, it is very heartfelt and engaging one. The family survives on welfare. The Angulo brothers, who are home-schooled, are engaging, intelligent and articulate. They are also surprisingly good actors. Their screen diet of Tarantino and Christopher Nolan seems to have equipped them remarkably well for the challenges of adult life in NYC. When the time comes to rebel against their father and to venture into the big bad world beyond their front door, they are able to adapt.

Moselle never fully explains what drove the father to lock his kids away or why the mother didn't intervene more forcefully to make him change his mind – or indeed why the father allowed her to make a documentary in which he was bound to come out in such an unfavourable light. The documentary leaves a lot of questions unanswered but that adds to its sense of mystery.

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