Saturday, June 8, 2019

David C. Coffin's BEYOND HOARDING proves a worthwhile, hour-long cautionary tale about a too-often overlooked neurological disorder

At least TrustMovies thinks that hoarding stems from a neurological disorder. That seems to be the consensus of the "experts" gathered together for this surprisingly winning little documentary about the very problematic (to the individual afflicted and to the surrounding society, as well) condition said to affect somewhere between two and five per cent of the U.S. population. If you've seen anything about hoarding via television, you may be primed for the usual skeevy, sleazy TV approach to things.

BEYOND HOARDING is a lot better than that. As directed by David C. Coffin (I believe the filmmaker is shown at right, but there is no photo of him on the film's web site to corroborate his identity), the movie turns out to be a very personal project. Back in 2007 Mr. Coffin's great uncle was involved in a terrible accident in Woodmere, New York, that was caused by hoarding, and this led the filmmaker to make his movie. As the film begins, we see the results of that accident, which revealed a barely living body buried beneath several feet of refuse, and then, days later, a second body, dead.

How all this happened and why, together with the reactions of relatives (none of whom lived nearby) and neighbors (two of which are shown below) combine to offer a picture of a condition/disease that is not at all well understood.

From Long Island, we move to Seattle and a father/daughter relationship (below) coming apart due to hoarding, even though this hoarder (the father) is a relatively clean and even somewhat neat one. Still, that hoarding takes its toll. One of the strongest points of the movie is how it warns us to be careful of passing judgements too easily without learning all the information necessary to understand the individual situation.

Beyond Hoarding broadens its scope with the introduction of its third set of characters: an older Boston hoarder, and the younger man -- Jesse Edsell-Vetter, of Metro Housing, Boston, shown below, left -- who works very hard to help the hoarder understand what his affliction is all about and how to circumvent it, even in very small steps and stages.

Our final character is a Minnesota woman, below, who clues us in to some important "do's and don'ts," hoarding-wise. It turns out that this woman was utterly traumatized by the act of some of her "helpful" friends, who cleaned up and actually emptied out her house of all of its glut -- without telling her in advance and which sent her on a unnecessary and very unhelpful shopping spree. Hoarding cannot be easily solved via good natured but unknowing "others."

What causes hoarding? The jury is still out, but evidently it is not actually related, as many imagine, to obsessive-compulsive disorder but rather to a kind of neurological impairment. Until further research is done, however, we'll have this little film to help guide those of us with friends or relatives suffering from this problem.

The documentary arrived on Blu-ray/DVD and most major Digital Streaming and Cable platforms last month and is available now for purchase or rental. 

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