We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

A fascinating and troubling documentary on hoarding disorder, My Mother’s Garden is the story of Eugenia Lester, whose home in the San Fernando Valley is so thick with clutter that the authorities are preparing to seize it. In the film’s early scenes, director Cynthia Lester watches her mom’s compulsion play out away from the house—she heads to dollar stores and garage sales, loading up on gewgaws and clothes that don’t fit her, and sorts recycling with a vigor that would make Al Gore cheer. That is, if Eugenia’s damage weren’t so painfully obvious: The house, when we finally enter it, is a tragedy, full of clutter, filth, and dead rats. Cynthia tasks her brothers with cleaning the place while she takes Mom to New York for a while, and though there are plenty of stomach-turning shots of the Stygian home being cleaned out one shovelful at a time, Cynthia wisely centers on Eugenia, who in her calmer moments is friendly, flirty, and sweet-tempered. Hoarding disorder is a poorly understood illness (from which 2 million Americans suffer, according to the film), and though Eugenia’s eventual solution isn’t exactly transcendent, relatively speaking it qualifies as a happy ending. —MA