Mission To Lars is not only a touching and enjoyable film, it’s also one of the rare documented cases of somebody attempting to meet Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich of their own volition.
Joking aside, the story of siblings Kate and Will Spicer taking their brother Tom on the road to meet the founding member of one of the world’s biggest bands is one that brings the viewer along on a rather emotional ride. Tom has Fragile X syndrome – the most common inherited intellectual disability that also finds commonality with autism. It’s a complex and unpredictable condition that means Tom, while presenting no danger to himself or others, is walking a constant emotional tightrope that could pull him in any direction.
Tom is obsessed with Metallica and Lars is his one true hero. Kate and Will, agitated somewhat by the realization that they haven’t given their brother as much consideration and time as he requires, decide that meeting Mr Ulrich is the way to go.
The film’s first half chronicles the total lack of preparation Kate and Will managed to summon. Told repeatedly by their own parents, Tom’s carers and others that routine is king and deviation from that will guarantee problems, they go ahead and try to push Tom into flying to the US from England and roughing it in an RV cross-country. It becomes apparent that the trip is serving Kate and Will’s needs more; their over-eager prodding of their fragile – literally and figuratively – brother is an attempt to make up for what they feel is lost time and an inadvertent neglect of their duties.
Suffice to say, it’s tense. Tom becomes the piggy-in-the-middle of Kate and Will’s bickering and the trip hangs in the balance as Tom drags his heels, twice spurning clear opportunities to meet Lars and the rest of the band. Will it all come together in time?
Well let’s be honest here… this film wouldn’t exist if our boy Tom didn’t meet Lars, but that’s beside the point. Mission To Lars is more about the sum of its parts than simply presenting means to an end. The Hollywood pattern – conflict, resolution, coming together to succeed in a common goal – is emulated perfectly in real life. Kate and Will finally realize they’re doing it all wrong, and resort to going with the flow. The results speak for themselves, but it would be rude to give away the specifics. But if you don’t have a big grin on your face by the end the honestly you’re dead inside.
You don’t have to be a Metallica fan to enjoy Mission To Lars. You don’t have to know squat about Fragile X because its symptoms and effects on Tom and those close to him are plain to see from the very beginning. You just have to a love for a good story and something positive to hold on to. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and dig out some old records…