A highland comedy drama that manages to avoid sentimentality
Local Hero, When Houston oil executive Mac is told to go to northern Scotland to buy the village that stands where Knox Oil wants to build its new refinery he doesn’t think it is an important job; he believes he could do it just as well via telex. When he gets there he initially maintains that view as local lawyer, and hotelier, Gordon Urquhart, tells him that he thinks the locals could be persuaded to sell if the price is right… the truth is they are all keen to sell and understandably want to make sure they get the best price. During his stay there he goes to like the place and its people… but not enough to change his mind about the project; that would be overly cliché. Mac is accompanied by Scotsman Danny Oldsen who works at the company’s Aberdeen office and he does end up somewhat conflicted when he falls for marine researcher Marina who believes Knox wants the site to build a research facility not a refinery.
This is a delightful film populated by a fine array of characters including Felix Happer, an oil executive who is more interesting in finding comets; Marina, a web-footed marine researcher; Happer’s psychiatrist who believes he is paid to insult his employer; Ben, an old man who lives on the beach and could scupper the project and just about everybody in the town. Director Bill Forsyth did a great job keeping the story fun without slipping into sentimentality… the fate of Mac and Danny’s pet rabbit is anything but sentimental; it is funny though! This isn’t just a visual treat; the sound is great too with a haunting score from Mark Knopfler, the regular peeping of shorebirds and the occasional roar of RAF Jaguar jets that shatters the tranquillity in a way that stops us from thinking the village is perfect. Peter Riegert puts in a nicely understated performance as Mac which went well with Burt Lancaster’s and Denis Lawson’s performances as the larger than life Happer and Urquhart and Peter Capaldi is good as Danny. I’d certainly recommend this; the plot might not be deep but it is all the little moments that make it great.