Metal to the res­cue

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

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.

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