Taking a leaf out of Asif Kapadia’s award winning documentary Senna (2010), Donaldson offers a comprehensive account of the highs and lows in the man’s short, yet fruitful career. Whether you have heard of Bruce McLaren or not, there is no doubt that at one moment in time you might have heard his ubiquitous name brandished around as a sure sign for motoring excellence. Using family home videos, news reels and talking head accounts, Donaldson manages to tell a very touching story about how a boy who was born with a disability which made it difficult for him to walk, overcame his shortcomings and became one of the greatest racing drivers in history. The film takes us through a series of exhilarating replays of races and photo calls around the world and culminates with the untimely and heartbreaking death of our hero aged just 32.
Using interviews with McLaren’s widow Patty, and his loyal stable mates and car-building team for the baulk of the story, Donaldson doesn’t always manage to strike the right note. Despite the very touching and sometimes tearful accounts, the film sadly fails to entirely convince those who are simply not very au fait with all things motorsports. It is also worth noting that as touching as the story may be, there appears to be some minor pace and editing issues with this otherwise excellent production. McLaren can at times feel a little on the slow side, but this is mostly due to the lack of abundant footage of the era, which means that Donaldson has to resort to padding the running-time with more interviews. It is also important to point out that unlike in Senna’s case, the lack of historical footage can mostly be attributed to the fact that the sport was still very much in its infancy, and without constant 24 hours TV coverage, this meant that things were simply less documented back then.
On the whole, there are more things to like about McLaren than there are to dislike, but if you have zero interest in this sport, you could eventually struggle to care enough until the very last 20 minutes, which more than make up for the rest of the film. An enjoyable and thoroughly touching story.
McLaren is released on May 25th