McLaren is a docudama from The World’s Fastest Indian director, Roger Donaldson. His need for speed is fed here as he documents the life of the man behind McLaren; a name now synonymous with the motor racing industry but yet little was know of it’s Kiwi born founder Bruce McLaren.
Much is made of his humble begins, as often is in films showing an ascent to success, however, McLaren did have a pretty tough start. At nine years old the Aucklander was diagnosed with Perthes disease, a hip disorder which resulted in one leg being longer than the other. His treatment consisted of him being strapped to a bed for what ended up being two years! Once recovered, Bruce followed his father’s passion of motorsport, which took him to the UK as a driver, and then as an engineer and car designer, culminating in the founding of ‘McLaren Automotive’ in 1963.
The documentary uses talking heads from friends, family and colleagues alongside photos, and forgotten archive footage (sourced from those involved in the film) to tell Bruce’s story. Donaldson also used some dramatization to help tell parts of the story and these segments work well and move the narrative along nicely. When telling a tale focused on motor racing, inevitably you will encounter tragedy and the film deals with this sensitively and with a lot of heart. It’s obvious from those recounting certain events that some things stay with you for life. You might want to have your tissues ready.
I’m not a huge follower or fan of F1 (or any other motor racing) but I do appreciate the hard work, dedication and risk needed to succeed in the sport. McLaren failed to get me really enthusiastic about the sport, and maybe you really need to have the nostalgia and interest in both the era and the sport for this film to really be a winner for you.
McLaren was obviously a very smart and resourceful person and these are values that Kiwi’s feel are what New Zealand is all about. Fans of the sport will enjoy this trip down memory lane and probably learn something about a New Zealander we should be extreamly proud of. Maybe Bruce McLaren is one tall poppy we need to celebrate more.
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.
McLaren is out on DVD now.