The embodiment of inanimate objects with all sorts of magical meanings and psychological illusions, needs and desires is nothing new. Embedded in a US culture whose rampant throwaway consumer lust thrives on such financially lucrative fetishism in the marketplace.
But even less acknowledged is a peculiar kind of related pathological fallout from the unhealthy clinging to stuff, substituting for real human relationships. Namely, hoarding. Which is the subject of Diane Crespo’s eloquent dramatic feature conveying disintegrating families ties and torment, Clutter.
Carol Kane is Linda, the charmingly charismatic compulsive hoarder in question. An aging, eccentric Ozone Park, Queens mother of three bewildered when not nearly equally batty adult children, Linda was ironically abandoned long ago by her garbageman spouse. A family trauma particularly for Linda that has in no way gone unnoticed by her son Charlie (Joshua Leonard), a despondent aspiring filmmaker who is consigned to doing cereal commercials instead. As Charlie notes after his father’s abrupt departure, ‘she treated everything in the house as if it contained some hidden communication from dad, insisting on keeping everyone and everything close at hand, until the message can be found’ in a kind of ‘pact that would never let anything disappear from their lives again.’
Rounding out this deeply traumatized tribe is perpetual rage afflicted Lisa (Natasha Lyonne), a home attendant who conquers loneliness via pretend conversations with her invalid speechless patient. And Penny (Halley Feiffer), a self-effacing younger sister who compensates for growing up in a home steeped in mountains of junk, through the aspiring vocation of daintily decorating homes for sale.
And with Linda’s determination to cling to whatever object comes her way – locked into a fierce belief that one man’s trash is another’s treasure – she has accumulated an endless array of coffee mugs and owl figurines, along with artificial flowers frequently adorning the top of her head. Meanwhile, a mildew streak on her garage door that she’s convinced is an appearance of the Virgin Mary, has attracted a collection of praying pro-lifers, holding vigil before the stain full time on lawn chairs.
Clutter pays careful attention to each of these thwarted, deeply scarred family members, candidly opening up with raw feeling their long festering psychological scars – but always nonjudgmentally and with abundant empathy. While deciphering with patient clarify and sensitivity, the many layers dwelling beneath the emotional meaning of material things as well.
A Filmbuff Release
4 out of 4 stars