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Say hello to hoarders on screen: when film characters exhibit stockpiling

A still from ‘Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders’

A still from ‘Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders’  

'The Tomorrow Man', 'My Hoarder Mum & Me' are just a few examples of films about hoarding, that seem eerily prescient in today's scenario

We are living through desperate times. On the one hand, millions of displaced people are dying of hunger and malnutrition, while on the other, the more fortunate are hoarding, preparing for a doomsday scenario.

Noble Jones’ The Tomorrow Man, a 2018 film that premièred at Sundance, now seems eerily prescient. John Lithgow plays a sexagenarian retired systems analyst in small town America, who enters into a relationship with the quirky Blythe Danner, who is in the same age bracket as him. They both have secrets, but it is Lithgow’s that is germane to this column. I’m not giving anything away by revealing it, because the trailer, which you’ll no doubt watch, features it too. Their relationship matures to the point where Lithgow feels confident enough to show her his secret. A fancy magnetic key opens the door to his garage. And what’s inside would put any of today’s supermarkets to shame. It is packed to the rafters with all manners of tinned goods, including soup, tomatoes, marmite, tuna, you name it, enough to ride out the apocalypse.

John Lithgow and Blythe Danner in ‘The Tomorrow Man’

John Lithgow and Blythe Danner in ‘The Tomorrow Man’  

This memory of The Tomorrow Man led me to check if there are any other examples of films about hoarding, and sure enough, there are. Christian Trumble’s Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder, a 2012 documentary from UK broadcaster Channel 4 followed chronic hoarder Richard Wallace, who was so out of control that his own life was in danger. A pile of paper and packaging filled his home floor to ceiling, and alarmingly, around the gas cooker where he made his frugal repast of boiled eggs and toast. The residents of his village shunned him, until landscape gardener Andy steps in to help. The National Health Service checks in to see the state of Richard’s mental health.

In the 2018 BBC programme, My Hoarder Mum & Me, television presenter Jasmine Harman tried to help her extreme hoarder mother to clear clutter accumulated over 30 years, so that her 12-year-old brother can return home to live there.

David C Coffin’s 2019 documentary, Beyond Hoarding, also looks at the practice as a psychiatric disorder. It follows those with the affliction, with mental health experts weighing in with their opinions. Likewise, Lucy Leveugle’s 2007 documentary World of Compulsive Hoarders treats hoarding as a mental condition and follows the lives of four hoarders.

Meanwhile, a horror film called Possessions has been announced. It is supposed to be the first in a trilogy that looks at the reasons behind hoarding.

Personally I support only one form of hoarding, stockpiling movies. The lockdown day will come when we run out of streaming choices, and, in an extreme scenario, the internet will cease to function. In such a bleak world, assuming there is electricity, no one can come between my teetering piles of Blu-rays and DVDs and me.

Naman Ramachandran is a journalist and author of Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography. He tweets @namanrs

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 9:39:27 AM |

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