A good documentary is one that can really get under your skin and tap into your emotions or fears or both and that’s exactly what Crystal Moselle’s latest insight into one family who live in the gritty lower East side of Manhattan does. It’s fascinating, intriguing, disturbing at times but most of all engaging.
It follows the Angulo brothers as they tell their rather depressing story of being locked away from the outside and all of society by their strict father. They know nothing more than what lies within the walls of their home. Therefore they learn about the world through the films they watch. They take us through accounts of their childhood where they re-enacted scenes from the likes of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and The Dark Knight in order to keep themselves sane and develop a hobby without being allowed to venture beyond their apartment. However everything starts to change when one of the brothers decides to take a big step and leave one day to see what the outside is like.
Moselle’s documentary is enthralling from the very beginning and you go through a range of emotions; from feeling sympathetic and sorry for these characters to eventually getting an uplifting sense of hope that things are starting to get better for them. The brothers are extremely charismatic and likeable and you instantly feel drawn to them and connect with them; all they’ve known is the inside of their home for all these years and yet they are happy and content.
The fact that this is a film about films in a way is powerful and effective; it proves that film itself can be such a strong form of escapism and it can change someone’s life. It was there for these boys at a time when they needed it and it helped them learn about the world. This is a product of both great filmmaking but also the ability to engage with a family to tell their story without being too pretentious and exaggerative. This is very real and you feel that instantly. This is definitely one of the best documentaries I’ve seen of late and I would thoroughly recommend it.