An autistic Metallica fan travels across the Atlantic to hook up with his hero in this charming, small-scale documentary.
"I’m not banking on anything, but you have to have hope", says journalist Kate Spicer of the mission that gives Mission to Lars its name. The job at hand is to get Spicer’s brother to meet Lars Ulrich from the band Metallica. Lars is Tom’s hero, and Metallica are his favourite band.
Under normal circumstances, getting the drummer from one of the world’s biggest rock bands to pay any attention to a mere mortal like Tom Spicer would be quite a battle. But the hard part is getting Tom to face Lars, as Tom has Fragile X syndrome, or "autism with bells on" according to his big sis.
It’s a small film, focusing on the relationships between the Spicer siblings and how they work together with Tom’s autism. Brother Will is mostly behind the camera, Kate the practical catalyst for adventure, and Tom is the star of the show. The adventure, however, is big: Tom’s progression from daily life in his residential home to taking on the realities of flying to America and meeting his hero are exhilarating and never veer into schmaltz.
Interspersing footage of Metallica gigs and the bright lights of the Vegas strip with shots Tom doing his laundry suggest that this would be overwhelming for a neurotypical person. For Tom, it seems a near-impossible challenge.
Kate and Will’s conversation often returns to their fear that what they are doing is not helping their brother, with admissions such as "I don’t think me and you are very good at looking after Tom". It reveals how much is at stake in this supposedly wholesome adventure. Tom’s reluctance, and often refusal, to participate in the carefully-laid plans of his attentive siblings gives the film its dramatic thrust.
With Lars within arm's reach, will Tom even turn up? A warm, heartfelt film that captures the passion and dedication of a true fan and the physical and psychological realities of living with autism.
Nice premise, but worries about potential saccharine run high.
Charming; constructed with care and sensitivity.
More about musical obsession than the nuts and bolts of autism, but very sweet all the same.