“The Wolfpack” (2014)
This documentary is one of the stranger stories you will see at the cinema. Six boys and one girl have grown up in a New York City four bedroom apartment sheltered from the outside world by their very strange and overly protective father and their rather submissive mother. The boys, all with long hair almost down to their knees, rarely venture outside of the apartment. When they do leave, it’s as a pack and just for short supervised trips. There have been instances when the boys have only left the apartment one time in a year. Their father has instilled in them that the outside world is a dangerous place, full of people wanting to ply them with drugs or worse yet, rob or kill them. The boys have all been given Sanskrit names (the father is a Hare Krishna), and they are to follow their father’s rules to a T.
When the film opens up, we see the six boys recreating some famous movies; “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction” and “The Dark Knight Rises” to name a few. They spend a great deal of time and effort on recreating the films, making elaborate costumes and props out of cereal boxes and old yoga mats. While the boys are home-schooled by their mother (who seems to be the family’s sole source of income), they spend a great deal of their time either watching movies or recreating them. Their productions are so elaborate that they type out the scripts on an old typewriter by watching the scenes of the film over and over on VHS and DVD players. We get to know the boys (the sister seems to be mentally impaired, rarely showing up in the film) through a number of short interviews. Some of the brothers are shyer to the cameras than others, with the two oldest boys the most vocal, especially about their father.
We don’t see their father until about 30 minutes into the film. In fact, early on I thought their father might be dead or had moved away. We find out that he is alive and living in the apartment. He spends most of his time watching movies in his bedroom, rarely venturing out. The father does talk on camera, but it’s about forty minutes into the film and then his speeches to the camera are rants on how he has protected his children by sheltering them from the outside world. His wife appears on camera much more than he does. At first, she is tentative to say much of anything, not wanting to disagree with her husband’s philosophy on raising their children. As the film moves along, she comes out of her shell.
Director Crystal Moselie came across the six boys, who usually dress in dark suits and sunglasses (even at night), one day and started talking to them. Somehow she got their parents to agree to be filmed. I am curious on how much the lives of the boys were impacted by the making of this film. As the movie goes on, we see the boys venturing out more and more. They go to their first movie theatre, thrilled that they are spending money that their heroes might somehow benefit from. As the film goes along, the oldest boys start to rebel against their father, refusing to talk or acknowledge him and venturing out more and more into the world of New York City. We see them as they take their first subway ride and their first trip to Coney Island and its beach. As the film progresses, we also see their mother rebel against their father, going for a run or calling her estranged mother.
I enjoyed the film, mostly because the boys are so outgoing, and their recreations of films are fascinating. I wanted more on their background, and while we do see quite a few home movies, I never felt that I got to know anyone depth in the family. The movie also never fully explores the darker side of the father and his hold on his family. There are hints that he bullies the boys and that he might have hit his wife, but these are never fully explored. Apparently the police have been called to the apartment also, but the film never really examines into why or what affect that had on the family. And while we do get to see the boys experiencing the outside world more and more, the film never truly explores the topic of how the boys will cope with strangers and co-workers as they get older. Even though we spend an hour and half with the family, I came away thinking that the boys were merely characters in their own film, instead of real kids trying to find their way in the big, wide world of New York City. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“The Wolfpack” is playing exclusively in Atlanta at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
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