(directed by Crystal Moselle, 2015)
**** (out of 5)
> Wow. This fascinating document of extreme family dysfunction is as interesting as it sounded, and as compelling as the critics claimed.
. I first read an in-depth feature about this film in a British newspaper, while visiting my mother in Ireland in August of the year. The documentary seemed to be making a big splash in the English media, but it barely registered a blimp on the U.S. cultural radar, playing perhaps a week or so in my local market. Too bad. This often jaw-dropping film deserves to be seen and contemplated.
. It tells the unlikely but true story of the Angulo family, who all loved together in one cramped Brooklyn apartment, all but completely cut-off from the outside world by a dangerously eccentric patriarch, who insisted all six of his boys (all named for Hindu scriptures), never cut their hair and live entirely indoors, under his authoritarian rule. Yes, he’s a sort of monster. Not believing in work, he lets his wife bring home the bacon, while he lounges around giving orders and pontificating on his extreme views. The one bright light in these lad’s criminally sheltered lives? Movies. They have a huge library of DVD’s that they watch again and again, until they know every scene by heart. When a digital camcorder is introduced, they begin to recreate the only world they know: the world of movies. Using every household material imaginable, they craft clever costumes and shoot their own “tribute” knockoffs of dozens of films.
. This creates a problem when the boys begin to come of age, to defy their father and venture outdoors. They know nothing of the world except the impressions they got through the distorted lens of the film camera. They expect to find a world full of big action sequences and constant danger and intrigue- but that just ain’t life. Their upbringing makes them skittish and paranoid. One of them is convinced that someone is secretly following them. (The effects of a lifetime of child abuse.)
. Unfortunately, the thing that made this amazing project possible is also the thing that constrained the film from being truly great: the family’s cooperation. They only reveal so much. For me, the most interesting part of the story is the difficult readjustment to the real world surrounding them, after a lifetime of cruel seclusion. Here, we get short shrift. It seemed the film was just getting really interesting when it wound up. What kind of adults did these homebound kids grow up to be? Tell me more!
. A follow-up is in order.
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.