On the outside, Joanna (Melissa John Hart) and her 17 year-old daughter, Lucy (Lizzie Boys), seem like they have a good life.
Joanna is a nurse who is beloved by both her patients and her co-workers. She works hard and she often worries about money but she is also responsible for saving lives. One of her former patients, Drew (Edward Foy), has even fallen in love with her and is pursuing a relationship with her. Drew is nice, considerate, and a financially stable. He seems like he would be anyone’s dream but Joanna is hesitant about getting close to him or anyone else.
Lucy is a smart student and a talented artist and her guidance counselor thinks that she should apply to F.I.T. in New York City. When Lucy says that she’s not sure that she could afford it, she is assured that she could probably get a scholarship or a grant. Lucy has a close friend named Kaylie (Pavia Sidhu) and a potential boyfriend named Josh (Wern Lee) and she should be looking forward to a great future. Instead, she’s spending all of her time making up excuses to keep people from coming by her house.
Joanna and Lucy share a secret. Joanna is a compulsive hoarder. Her house is so cluttered that she can’t find a thing. While Joanna watches home improvement shows and talks about all of her plans for the future, Lucy struggles to find room to sleep. Lucy is forced to take showers at school because Joanna couldn’t find the water bill. When Lucy tries to secretly throw away some bubble wrap, Joanna catches her and yells, “What about if I want to send gifts!?” The clutter is so terrible that Joanna is constantly struggling with her asthma.
It easy to cast Joanna as the villain here but, as the film makes clear, both she and Lucy have been abandoned by the rest of their family. Joanna’s husband walked out years ago. Lucy’s older sister, Sara (Samantha Hodhod), refuses to come by the house or even talk to Joanna but, at the same time, she expects Lucy to put all of her plans on hold so that she can take care of their mother. Everyone has given up on Joanna but Lucy is convinced that she can somehow fix things. It ultimately leads to tragedy and leaves the audience wondering if anyone in the family ever really had a chance.
This is one dark Lifetime movie.
I have to admit that, though I’m compulsively clean and organized, I always have a bit of sympathy for hoarders. When you grow up in an unstable household, it’s easy to put a lot of importance in the things that you own because those are the thing that aren’t going to abandon you. Even the simplest or most mundane items can come to represent either a good memory or hope for a better future. I’ve seen a few episodes of Hoarders and I always despise the family members who yell at the hoarder for not throwing stuff out. What the people yelling don’t understand is that those possessions are often the only source of comfort and stability that a hoarder has. Throwing stuff away means throwing away memories and hope. (The other reason why I don’t like it when people yell on Hoarders is because they’re usually only yelling to show off for the cameras. People will ignore a problem for years and then try to play the hero as soon as a television crew shows up.) Myself, I have a sentimental attachment to just about everything I own. Fortunately, I also have a storage unit.
Melissa Joan Hart does a good job playing Joanna, who alternates between pretending that everything is normal and flying into a rage whenever she can’t find something in the house. Lizzie Boys is also effective as Lucy, who has been unfairly burdened with not only protecting the family’s secrets but also with taking care of her mother. At the end of the movie, it’s obvious that both characters deserved to be treated better than they were. Both characters sacrifice their chances for happiness in order to keep the family secrets. It makes for an effective and sad Lifetime film, one that will hopefully inspire a little compassion for not only the hoarders but also the people who try to take care of them.