When Mukunda Angulo gets a job as a production assistant and displays in-depth knowledge about filmmaking in that setting, I had the thought that he and his brothers possess more skill than many young people I know who leave their homes every day. The situation in Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack and in the outside world is, of course, more complicated than that, but it is worth noting the roles of curiosity, enthusiasm, outlook, companionship, and imagination when it comes to facing life’s opportunities and restrictions. The six Angulo (two brothers have since changed their names) grew up with parents who wanted a different, freer life for them. Unfortunately, the inability to get out of Manhattan and a distrust of the city and the people in it (essentially, “the world”) caused the father to restrict them to the walls of their apartment where they stayed locked in. He had the only key to the front door and controlled entry and exit.
The boys watched movies—thousands of them. They watched with the creativity and the drive to absorb, appreciate, and reenact the scripts with a seriousness that has them, as we see in the film, watching and rewatching in order to hand-copy entire scripts in order to play the roles among themselves. They create their own costumes, create their own sets, and inhabit roles with deep understanding of the process they learn so much about from their keen powers of observation and from the sheer amount of time they spend with films. They create a (literal) interior world (the rooms of their home turned movie sets) that grew from the interior world of their creative minds spurred on by their love of cinema.
They began to venture outside to explore New York. Moselle discovered them one day on the street early on. When watching the film, I was most saddened when watching interviews with their mother, Susanne. It seemed that she was always negotiating in the gulf between her husband and her children. She says “there were more rules” (set by her husband) for her “than there were for them.” What of her life and her own self-expression? I was struck by how she shows her deep love for her sons while balancing her relationship with her husband, who is estranged from most of them. Their lives have affected each brother in different ways, but that they have each other is what I took from the film—and what I mentioned earlier—the roles of curiosity, enthusiasm, outlook, companionship, and imagination when it comes to facing life’s opportunities and restrictions—is definitely something to think about.
For updates, see this New York Times piece (June 10, 2015) from Cara Buckley.