Local Hero (1983)

Some movies can have a long review just to explain them, others can be written in a few short sentences, this is one of the latter. This is not because of it being bad, but rather the opposite. It is a straight forward, well written and calmly directed piece which drags you in from the start and keeps you entertained until the end. Having watched it once, you will find yourself happy to repeat the experience as it pops-up from time to time.
Written and directed by Bill Forsyth (Gregory’s Girl, 1981) the cast is made up of some very understated stars. Peter Riegert (We Bought A Zoo, 2011) stars as the hard pressed executive sent to Scotland by Burt Lancaster’s (The Leopard, 1963) character Felix Harper. Harper the company’s CEO (Knox Oil & Gas) sends Riegert’s character (Known as “Mac”) partially because Harper thinks “Mac” has Scottish ancestry. This opening also shows how Harper can be truly narrow minded, focused on a result and dragging everybody else along, regardless of how they feel about it.
Harper has plans for an oil refinery and the townland of Ferness in Scotland is the perfect place, only problem is, he does not own it. Mac’s job will be to go to Ferness and convince the locals to sell-up. Adding an extra angle to the story Harper gives Mac an additional instruction to watch the clear night sky in Virgo and let him know back. Mac having a life in Texas tries to organise for all this to be done over the phone, but Harper insists on him being in Scotland.
Upon arriving he meets with Knox’s local man; Oldsen (Peter Capaldi, Dr. Who, 2014) and of course to add interest there is the local marine biologist, Marina (Jenny Seagrove, Judge John Deed, 2001)
Not being the biggest town in the world, Mac stays in the local bar/hotel which is owned by Gordon Urguhart (Denis Lawson, The Machine, 2013). As with many of these films being exposed to the locals and their way of life causes Mac to start to have reservations about the refinery project and the impact it will have on the local population. Of course things are never quite as they seem. Gordon not only runs the hotel but he works with some of the various fishermen who visit the port to actually manage their investments, none more so than with Victor, (Christopher Rozycki, Truly Madly Deeply, 1991) the Soviet trawler man who is a regular visitor to the town. Using parallels to Whisky Galore (1949) we see that life is hard enough for the locals and to be honest, they would be more than happy to sell up, but being who they are, they are putting on a long face and trying for as much more money as possible.
Mac and team soldier on with all the usual love and commercial complexities as the movie progresses, but then there is a twist, it turns out buying-up the town is one thing but when it comes to the beach and foreshore, there is a complication. The owner. He happens to be an old beachcomber by the name of Ben, (Fulton Mackay, Porridge, 1974) who actually lives on the beach in a self-made shack. Caught up in this and what looks like increasing issues with the locals it is starting to look like the purchase may not take place. In to all this Harper arrives and through a series of pleasant misunderstandings and his ability to effectively ignore what is being said to him, he actually manages to progress things. The dialogue with Ben, Mac and Harper is fantastic with some great one-liners. Sides are set, Ben does not want to sell, Harper wants the land and Mac is caught in the middle. Negotiations look like going nowhere. Faced with this Ben and Harper start to talk on the beach and well kindred spirits reveal themselves and a solution is found.
Movies like The Grand Seduction (2013) clearly owe a lot to Local Hero. Such is the quality of this film that it is one of those which is used as a bench-mark against others are measured. This is a case-study in how to write a story, direct the image and not over complicate or distort the output to a level which ruins and causes a lesser offering. This is simply a well-crafted story with a great ensemble cast.


The trouble with being a Disney/Pixar creation is that a lot is expected of the output.  Some critics have said this movie is light on plot while others have said some of the background animation is too good…too good! well that’s all as may be. The truth in my opinion, is that they have again produced a kids’ movie suitable for adults. The story line will appeal to kids while keeping adults entertained, the script will appeal to adults while keeping kids entertained.  I saw this movie with two friends, both admitted to watery eyes at various stages during the movie, me, I laughed a lot.

So what about the movie? It is based on a Scottish king Fergus (Billy Connolly, Mrs. Brown, 1997) with a proud and correct queen; Elinor (Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day, 1993) , a rather willful 16 princess; Merida (Kelly MacDonald, Intermission, 2003). The opening scenes are of the family picnicking celebrating a young Merida’s birthday, only to have an infamous bear attack.  The movie then moves to about 10 years later, the King as it turns out, lost a leg in the attack, burt has gained many years of story telling embellishing what happened on that day. There are also the three young princes. These are a interesting plot tool, providing some of the best humour and convenient plot devices when needed.  Merida is now 16 and must have a husband found for her from amoung the clans, the clans arive at the castle to win her hand, she chooses an archery competition, which she then enters and well wins. All kinds of chaos ensue and ultimately Merida runs away after arquing with her mother and ends up in the cottage of a wood-turning witch (Julie Walters, Mo 2010) who gives the girl a spell to change here mother. THe spell is administered and it does change her mother; into a bear.

What follows is a voyage of Merida finding a solution, growing closer to her mother and ultimately saving the day (it is Disney after all). There are some excellent comedic moments scattered throughout. Was the plot suitable for adults? Yes, it was not overly taxing but highly entertaining. The overall movie works with some speed and manages not to sag in the middle, end result we were kept entertained till the end. The soundtrack is also quite good, I might have to look into a CD

This is a cartoon aimed at kids but with adults firmly in mind.  There are a couple of kilt jokes which while predicted were well executed.  The scenes in the great hall firstly where the suitors are introduced and later when all are fighting are both excellently executed and quite funny, little things like the characterisation of Fergus’ hounds were much appreciated.

Rating 8/10, nothing is perfect – for the first few minutes every time I heard the princess’s name being called I was put in mind of a certain piece of French but; C’est la vie!