TV3’s movie expert Kate Rodger learns the inside story of a Kiwi motor-racing legend and continues her love affair with an American political drama.
Documenting the history of this great little nation of ours should be a prerogative, so what a gift to have one of our most successful filmmakers craft the true story of one of our greatest sportsmen. Bruce McLaren died in 1970 at just 32 years of age, an international motor-racing icon. I knew of his story of course, like so many of us do. But to have it told by the men on that journey with him and by the woman at his side, as well as through the lens of racing enthusiast and film director Roger Donaldson, is a lasting legacy for generations of Kiwis.
The McLaren Formula One Racing Team is second only to Ferrari as the most successful F1 team in the history of the sport. The man who created it was born in Auckland, went to Meadowbank Primary School and would become the personification of Kiwi can-do.
To tell the McLaren story, Donaldson embarked on a two-year-long global hunt for archival footage, unearthing some cinematic treasures in the process.
But it’s the interviews that form the lifeblood of Donaldson’s telling: lifelong friends of the McLaren family, Colin Beanland and the late Phil Kerr, along with fellow Kiwis Wally Willmott and Alistair Caldwell – they’re all magic.
This is a personal story, but Donaldson serves motor-racing fans additional interviews with the likes of Chris Amon, Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney, the film glued together with Bruce’s words as narration – from archive, interviews and his letters and tapes sent home to family.
And then of course, his late wife Patty. Former Miss Caroline Bay in Timaru and the love of Bruce McLaren’s short life, she died during the making of the film. The judicious and empathetic use of her interviews gives an intimate insight into the man behind the wheel, and are of course incredibly emotional to watch.
But it comes down to McLaren’s oldest mates to break our hearts. Filling in all the gaps between the race wins and losses, the building of the McLaren cars, the brand, and ultimately the team and the legend McLaren is today, these men pay a moving tribute to the friend they loved the best way they know how, by telling his life story simply, with humour, a typically understated Kiwi passion, and then, ultimately, with their hearts and their tears.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house – McLaren is a wonderful watch, a must-see for all New Zealanders regardless of how much petrol runs through their veins.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house.