New York state of mind

Crystal Moselle’s award-winning feature debut, The Wolfpack, is a documentary that sometimes recalls the insightful, at times voyeuristic, approach of some of Albert Maylses’ best work, particularly Grey Gardens (1975).

This is in no way a condemnation or criticism, for with the death of Mayles earlier this year, it’s encouraging to know that other filmmakers aspire to his mantle. The  Wolfpack is entertaining, observant and sometimes very funny, yet there’s an underlying sadness to the mirth – one that psychologists and sociologists would have a field day with (and have, given the extensive coverage the film has received).

The film focuses on the Angulo family, who have lived in the same apartment on New York’s Lower East Side for more than a decade. There are seven Angulo children (six boys and one girl), all home-schooled and all clearly intelligent and creative. Yet they’ve never set foot outside of their Manhattan apartment, at the behest of their father, Oscar.

The Angulo children’s knowledge of contemporary culture is gleaned almost entirely from movies, which they gleefully re-create and re-enact in the confines of their home. (Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are particular favorites.) It’s when oldest son Mukunda decides to leave the apartment – on his own, without his parents’ consent — that an immediate, seismic shift in the family dynamic occurs. When the other children follow Mukunda’s example, their parents must not only accept it but also reflect on the circumstances that have led to this inevitable moment, in which the children would depart the home, and indeed the very universe, that they’ve created for them.

The Wolfpack opens Friday at a/ perture cinema, Winston-Salem