Chris Nashawaty
June 12, 2015 AT 08:43 PM EDT

The Wolfpack

Current Status
In Season
84 minutes
Wide Release Date
Crystal Moselle
Documentary, Biography, Drama

We gave it an A-

Oddball families have always been catnip for documentary filmmakers—the most famous example, of course, being “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, the bickering and delusionally eccentric mother and daughter immortalized in the Maysles’ rubbernecking 1975 classic, Grey Gardens. Now, 40 years later, Crystal Moselle has stumbled onto not only a terrific journalistic scoop but also a fine successor to that earlier film with her directorial debut, The Wolfpack. The subjects here are the six Angulo brothers, a close-knit clan of longhaired homeschooled teens living like Skinner-box shut-ins on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Forbidden by their paranoid Peruvian father from venturing outside more than a couple of times a year—his goal seems to have been to create his own tribe—the kids are forced to invent a hermetic world of their own imaginations, binge-watching movies like Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight and faithfully reenacting them with homemade costumes and props. For the most part they appear to be remarkably sane and well-adjusted, considering their circumstances. But as the film goes on, their rebellious thirst for freedom and independence slowly builds to a physical and psychological emancipation that Moselle never quite follows through on. Still, she’s discovered a stunning, stranger-than-fiction story and tells it with sensitivity, intimacy, and compassion. In the end you’ll be rooting for these poor kids to finally find some sense of peace in the great wide world beyond the prison of their cramped apartment. A–

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