Spencer Matthews’s Everest journey is a reminder that grief can take you to unexpected places

‘The timing isn’t great’: The reality star risks everything to try find his brother’s body in Finding Michael, leaving behind his wife, Dublin podcaster Vogue Williams, and their three children

“I don’t feel great, if I’m being honest,” says Vogue Williams early in Finding Michael (Disney+). The Dublin podcaster and influencer is speaking to her husband, reality TV star Spencer Matthews, as he cradles their newly-born third child. She’s only recently back from hospital. He is about to jet to Nepal to climb Everest.

Matthews shrugs and then sighs. “The timing isn’t great,” he acknowledges. “But summit season is summit season.”

Spencer is flying to the Himalayas, not on a boys’ own jaunt but because he hopes to retrieve the body of his brother, Michael, who died while descending Everest in May 1999. He was 22 and Spencer was just 10. Now in his early 30s, the Made In Chelsea star has a hard time reconciling his memories of his brother as a sturdy older presence in his life with the fact that he was barely in his 20s when he died.

This moving film arrives on Disney+ having been mysteriously pushed back by five days (perhaps Ryan Tubridy will ask Matthew about it when he appears on the Late Late Show this Friday). But now that it has reached the screen the movie, directed by Tom Beard, delivers an extraordinary gut punch.


It is, at one level, an exploration of humanity’s inexplicable urge to conquer unscalable peaks, no matter the danger. However, it is also a meditation on grief and trauma. This becomes clear after word reaches Spencer that a body that has been photographed on Everest may be that of his brother. He and Vogue have two kids and another is on the way at the time: is it appropriate for a father to risk everything to retrieve a body?

Matthews never quite makes up his mind and it says something for his extraordinary privilege that he has the luxury of putting on hold his life and his family to embark on a personal quest. However, having taken counsel with adventurer Bear Grylls – an Eton old boy just like Matthews – he sets off for Everest base camp.

His mission is to establish whether the body is that of Michael and if it can be safely retrieved. But back at home with the kids, Williams sounds a warning. Even if Michael is up on Everest it is important to remember, she says, that it’s just a body – not his soul.

In Nepal, things do not pan out as expected. Still Matthews returns feeling closer to his brother – and perhaps ready to move on from the grief that, we gradually learn, has defined him for all his adult life. “I felt more emotionally charged on Everest than I ever have in my life,” he says.

“Pretty much all we did was talk about Mike – what happened to him, losing him. It allowed me move through the feelings of place of peace after all these years.”

This isn’t a happy ending. But it is a cathartic one. And it is a reminder that grief is not a stage in life but a journey that can take you to places you never expected. That was Matthew’s experience at least and the film he has made is both a moving profile of bereavement and a fitting tribute to his brother.