Imagine being brought up by cinema. Imagine your world shaped and informed by the films you spent hours and hours watching and rewatching, and your understanding of almost everything that lurks outside your home and family coming from what you see on a screen. Even the most avid cinephiles can't say they've had this experience to the same extent as the Angulo siblings. For the majority of their lives, these seven black-wearing, longhaired children remained inside their Manhattan apartment watching movies.
The exploits of Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayan, Mukunda, Krsna and Jagadisa, plus their sister Visnu, fall into the categories of so outlandish it must be true and needing to be seen to be believed. First-time documentarian Crystal Moselle enters the family's sanctuary, captures a slice of their existence, and gives the teenage and twenty-something male members of this band of film fiends a chance to chat to the camera.
Their tales — and their passion — prove striking, but these brothers don't just spend all their time staring at the television. When the documentary starts, they've never actually been to a movie theatre; however, watching whatever they can on DVD isn't their only form of interaction with cinema. They also transcribe the dialogue of their favourite fare, create scripts, then re-enact and record elaborate re-stagings. They're dedicated to getting things just right, too, obsessing over costumes and accessories, and handcrafting accompanying posters.
It's a fascinating real-life scenario, made all the more so by the shadow of the father who has kept his kids confined to his realm with only films as their method of escape. It's also one that Moselle is content to simply watch and wonder at, rather than probe or peer deeper into. Said family patriarch is seen, and his wife too, yet any delving into his attempts to create his own isolated brood and her inability to do anything about it remains slight and superficial.
Accordingly, as a portrait of the impact film can have upon those so enamoured with it that it becomes their whole life — albeit in strange and heightened circumstances — The Wolfpack engages, but that's all there is. Indeed, as a dissection of how and why the Angulos became such avid movie buffs, it never dares to diverge from the most standard of scripts.
Thankfully, sharing in the joy of the former helps temper the latter, particularly when spirited, homemade reenactments of Reservoir Dogs, The Dark Knight, No Country for Old Men and Pulp Fiction rank among the documentary's highlights. Of course, that Moselle has done little more than serve up a fly-on-the-wall look at subjects she was certainly lucky to come across is never forgotten, as enthusiastic as their love of cinema — and as eye-opening as their stories and subsequent breaking out of their comfort zone — ultimately are.