Cynthia Lester’s deeply and sometimes unsettlingly personal doc gives an up-close view of a woman — Lester’s 61-year-old mother — whose severe hoarding disorder has profoundly affected her life and the lives of her children. “My Mother’s Garden” isn’t likely to bloom theatrically, but its educational and therapeutic value may enable it to harvest steady, long-term homevid sales.
As her daughter explains in sometimes measured, sometimes anxious narration, Eugenia Lester remains indelibly influenced by her childhood experiences in post-WWII Poland, where hoarding was a method of survival. Decades after moving to the U.S., Eugenia continues to hoard trash and treasures indiscriminately, to the point where she must sleep in her garden because there’s literally no more room in a house stuffed with junk of all shapes and sizes. The filmmaker and her two brothers recall leaving home at very early ages to escape intolerable conditions (and avoid mocking classmates). Despite their own psychological scars, however, the siblings return to save their troubled and possibly manic-depressive mother — who defiantly insists she doesn’t need saving — before authorities evict her. Tech values are minimal, but not off-puttingly so.