Kate and Will Spicer’s brother, Tom, has Fragile X Syndrome, the most common form of inherited learning disability. He is also a massive fan of Lars Ulrich from Metallica. They made a promise to Tom that they would get him to meet Lars. Tom’s dream is their promise. Together they went on a Mission to Lars…..
As I huge Metallica fan and a publicly declared fan-boy of Lars Ulrich, it’s slightly odd that I didn’t see this film back when it was released in 2012. I do remember that there was some negativity from the hardcore fans about comments Kate Spicer made in an interview. I added it to my list of films to see and earlier this week I finally got around to watching it.
Wow. What a film.
Whilst the main conceit of the film is getting Tom to Lars the real heart of this film is the relationship between Tom and brother Will and sister Kate. From the start, it’s clear that Will and Kate do not have a hugely close relationship with their brother. For various reasons, their paths seemed to have drifted since they were children. Their decision to take Tom on a road trip in America to try and meet Lars stems not so much from them wanting to fulfil their brother’s dream, but more to ease the guilt they were (demonstrably) feeling about their lack of presence in Tom’s life. Not to say that the mission is not key, but I felt it was secondary to (perhaps) assuaging their guilt.
What we see over the course of 74 minutes is two things: firstly Tom overcoming his fears and secondly a real, genuine bond (re)appearing between the brothers and sister. It’s heart warming to see the development of their relationship from it’s early, tense guilt-ridden state to a latter state where they are warm, open and caring.
It can’t be easy having a close family member suffer from an Fragile X syndrome as it is both challenging on an emotional level as well as an intellectual level. None more demonstrated by the scene where Kate, Will & Tom visit Randi Hagerman, an expert in Fragile X syndrome. It appears that Kate has a number of questions that she has never asked before.
It’s hard not to feel for Kate and Will, who clearly struggle not only with the demands that Tom presents on a day-to-day basis, but also on an emotional level. It’s obvious that they both have a sense of guilt for not being around in their brother’s life more than they have. In fact, Mission to Lars is as much about them achieving the goal of spending time with their brother and doing something amazing for him as much as it it in actually getting Tom to Lars. In fact…..
(**SPOILERS FROM HERE!**)
……had they have not succeeded in getting Tom to Lars, they would have still emerged from the journey richer and better people, simply from just having spent time together.
And so to the the actual meeting of Lars. A hugely emotional moment both for the Spicers but also for us as viewers. Tom’s reluctance to play on Lars’ kit finally crumbles and his gentle tapping of cymbals is enough to rend your heart in two. For someone who has spent the better part of the film refusing to attend the concerts, who has been visibly distressed by the negative vibe on the motor home, the sights, the sounds… to see him so happy that he’s met his idol is one of the most uplifting moments ever captured on film.
And as for Lars? If it’s possible, my fan boy-ness quadrupled after this film. For someone who is in the biggest metal band in the world; he has always treated the fans with grace, courtesy and humour. He speaks to Tom with genuine affection and curiosity. He’s warm, embracing, open and generous, offering Tom the chance to walk to stage with him at the start of the gig.
As I’ve said elsewhere, for all the bashing and shit that Lars takes from “fans”, I have only ever heard positive things about him in his interactions with fans. As he says in the interview segment in the bonus features, he remembers be that fan; the fan that waits outside hotels and clubs for an autograph. He has an empathy with the fans because he was/is one. And he’s never forgotten that.
You don’t have to be a fan of Metallica to enjoy this film. The band and Lars are almost a removable component, really. What drives this film, what is it’s heart, is the relationship (and the repairing of it) between Kate, Will and Tom Spicer. It’s a story about learning to connect and family and love. It’s heart warming, funny (and features some excellent tunes!) Now close this page and go check it out.
For more information of Fragile X syndrome visit The Fragile X Society.