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A disabled man’s quest to meet his hero is the latest in a growing movement of social action films

Featuring a rockstar and the attempts of a disabled man to realise a 15-year dream to meet him, Mission To Lars, has Hollywood plot written all over it. But this isn’t a script penned by blockbuster bigwigs; instead, it’s the latest in a trend of social action films, unscripted documentaries raising awareness about issues far outside the mainstream.

Mission To Lars also delves into personal relationships as the siblings of the film’s star – Tom Spicer – travel 5000 miles with him from the UK to the US in a quest to meet Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. It often makes for uncomfortable viewing, leading the audience to question how it would cope in that situation, and how it views disability on the whole. And that’s the point.

Backrolled by donations and a Wellcome Trust grant, all profits from Mission To Lars go to mental health charity Mencap, putting this project firmly among the ranks of documentaries endorsed by the third sector to shine a light on social issues. Viewers watch how journalist Kate Spicer and her film-maker brother William help Tom, 40, who has the genetic condition Fragile X syndrome, realise his dream. It emerges they know little about the condition that leads to Tom being hypersensitive to noise, anxious in crowds, uncomfortable out of his routine, and creates problems with his communication.

His siblings – Kate who is in a constant state of fluster trying to arrange a meeting with Ulrich, and Will, who is filming – take him from the comfort zone of his Devon care home (the project threatened to end here when Tom went AWOL) and fly with him to the US, before negotiating thousands of heavy metal fans and the unfamiliar backstage labyrinth of a rock stadium.

For Tom, it’s an immensely challenging undertaking. The unpredictability makes him nervous, leading to him questioning his commitment to the mission in some touch-and-go scenes. “From the get-go, we blindly assumed this was going to be a jolly old trip,” Kate says. “It was supposed to be something that could bring us all closer together.

But our parents warned us it wasn’t going to be as easy. “Growing up, I knew Tom as a sibling, someone who I could sort most things out with over a bit of rough and tumble, but I realised I’m clueless as a carer. I guess as children we weren’t so familiar with Tom’s idiosyncrasies.”

 


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