Mission to Lars
TOM SPICER has Fragile X syndrome, a condition his sister describes as “autism with bells on”. Tom has spent the past 20 years in a care home in sleepy Devon. He loves the routine and rhythm of his life, but he loves Metallica even more and drummer Lars Ulrich in particular.
Tom’s siblings, journalist Kate and film-maker William, have always wanted to do something as a family with their institutionalised brother. Armed with a camera
and some scant leads, Kate contacts Metallica’s management and books flights to the US for a Stateside odyssey that takes the trio on the mission to meet the Danish rock god.
Trouble soon ensues. On day one of the carefully orchestrated holiday, Tom hides so he doesn’t have to go. By day three he thinks it’s boring. In fact, the more Kate frantically tries to make Tom’s dream come true, the more he gets freaked out by the entire idea. Elsewhere, Metallica, a band that rarely inspire kindly words from the music press, seem to bend over backwards to accommodate the Spicers. But with Tom’s condition, things are always complicated.
This moving, uplifting film often feels more like a home movie than a documentary, an intimacy that is entirely appropriate in the circumstances. William, who shot most of the footage, casts a protective though critical eye over his siblings: Tom’s ungrateful sulks do not go unnoticed and, as the trip goes pear-shaped, Kate’s sisterly concern and an overall sense of mounting familial discord occasionally leave Tom looking like the neurotypical one.
Never mind the bickering and cajoling: this is a lovely, generous chronicle of a lovely, generous gesture. In this spirit, Mission to Lars has rolled out as a series of screenings, with proceeds going to mental health charities. Make sure you don’t pull anything as you punch the air leaving the cinema.