Local Hero (1983)

It was a Friday, and a Friday demands a classic for the evening and this evenings classic never fails to deliver.  Local Hero, tells the story of an American coming over to Scotland to buy basically a whole town for subsequent oil exploration.

Peter Riegert plays Mac, the American, more use to the hustle’n’bustle of oil dealing Houston than some highland community where everyone knows everyone and they have all multiple jobs.

Denis Lawson (uncle of Ewan McGregor and an X-Wing pilot in the first Star Wars) plays Urquhart the local solicitor, hotelier, taxi man and bar man.  He is representing the whole community as he negotiates with Mac as they dance around one another feeling out just how much money could be on the table.

The comedy is subtle and sneaks up on you. 

Peter Capaldi (the latest Dr Who) plays Oldsen, the handler that has been assigned to Mac to help acclimatize him to the Scottish ways.   However, while being Scottish himself, it is clear Oldsen is as much out of his depth as Mac is because his Edinburgh street wise knowledge doesn’t translate to a small fishing community in the highlands.

The whole village of course knows why Mac is there but no one ever talks to him about it directly.   Instead they are found always helping him, making sure he is well catered for (repainting the local public phone box for him, which is the only method for the international calls back to Houston).   There is a great moment when one of the older fisherman has renamed his boat, Silver Dollar, and a fellow villager looks over his shoulder while he is painting it and asks “you sure there is two L’s in dollar?” with the reply “is there two G’s in bugger off?”.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a great story if everyone was on board to be selling to the American’s.  There is one old boy, Ben (played by Fulton Mackay) who lives down on the neighboring beach and he refuses to sell because he can’t see a need for money and doesn’t need for anything more than what the sea washes up on his beach for him.

An interesting tidbit here, while the beach is depicted in the movie to be at the end of the village, in reality, it was on the opposite side of Scotland from the village where they filmed it.

Any review of this movie cannot let the excellent movie score, penned by Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits fame), go unmentioned.  The haunting tune, Going Home, appears at regular intervals, different instruments and different pace.  In a strange twist of irony, Knopfler had more success with the movie soundtrack than the actual movie itself initially. 

Local Hero is a beautifully simple story, with rich characters playing off one another as they come to the realization their dreams may be realized if this all goes to plan.   The story here was retold with a twist in the later 1998 classic Waking Ned Devine.

Bill Forsyth wrote and directed this movie, and it is still one of his stand out movies from an excellent pedigree including Comfort and Joy and Gregory’s Girl.

You simply can’t go wrong with this one and when (not if) you fall in love with it too, check out the BBC documentary on the making of it, currently on YouTube.

Viewing Date
Friday, 28th August 2015


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