Director Kate Schermerhorn’s Do I Need This? dives deep into Americans’ understanding and possibly the world’s conscious and subconscious obsession with consumption. Yet, with all the overwhelming information, details, and evidence about extreme consumption along with its irreversible consequences, at its core, the documentary is also a beautiful eulogy of love and gratitude to the filmmaker’s late parents, who died eight months apart.
In Schermerhorn’s unique, quizzical, quirky, and funny style, she presents Do I Need This? from her perspective of trying to understand and determine how her hoarding and insatiable need to keep everything represents something much bigger than all of us. We are handed a rattle from birth, thus forming the need to hang on to objects. In the typical American home, there are 300,000 objects alone. So when the director begins cleaning out her parent’s Orcas Island, Washington, home for their move into assisted living near her in Marin County, California, due to her mother’s onset of dementia, she deconstructs why we all have so much stuff.
Providing layers of thought processes and understanding, Schermerhorn leaves no stone unturned in this observational documentary on what could be ruining the planet and our ability to live well. The film offers scientific and philosophical explanations by professors, scientists, and other reputable sources on how our behavior as a society to keep everything is an overwhelming and burdened cycle of storage and endless clutter. The mental disability of hoarding also has a reverse extreme, where Schermerhorn shows how sparse and conscious living results in two years of trash filling only two glass bottles. This is The Zero Waste Home project. It’s something to ponder as box stores like Target prey upon impulse buying or the need to fill every holiday with stuff that no one needs, nor do they discard, adding to growing mounds of items that take up space.
“…dives deep into…the world’s conscious and subconscious obsession with consumption.”
Scouring the subject of materialism and the culture it creates, Do I Need This? manages to offer many perspectives, from a monk to a woman who can no longer live in her house and function because it has become a giant trashcan. Also featured is a moving company owner who has seen their fair share of storage that no one claims or wants, and artists looking to make statements from collecting enormous amounts of plastic objects on a small beach to create colorful works of art. No matter who they or we are, the trash and leftover stuff pile up.
Schermerhorn points the camera at herself, too, as despite knowing or learning about the various issues and influences of consumption, there seems to be no end yet. Then, finally, there are her parents, and what they left behind are priceless memories and experiences, which Schermerhorn sees in small objects and keepsakes — how else may you honor them?
As a planet, we may burn up in 100 years from our consumer lifestyle and inability to dispose of all our waste. At that critical, life-saving moment, what decision do you make on what to save when you can save only yourself from the flames of destruction. It’s these theories and actual events that the director captures through interviews and her footage, including her brother’s wildfire experience losing his home and the things he kept from his parents.
Up close and personal, Schermerhorn captures many emotional and precious family moments that provided her parents with dignity. In Do I Need This? she recognizes that consumption will have irreversible damage, but holding on to memories can have a place of recognition and import. In the end, “what do we need?” she asks. A place to sleep, peace, the lord, less judgment, and more time seems to be the answer.
For more information, visit the Do I Need This? official website.
"…captures many emotional and precious family moments..."