It’s without question that Bill Forsyth is a filmmaking legend. Arguably, he’s made a huge impact on the UK film industry by crafting films that resonate with audiences on many different levels. Whether it’s through subtle hidden messages and themes, the identifiable protagonists or the quirky humour. Forsyth’s filmmaking and storytelling has always felt personal and heartfelt, which is why his films are always astonishing to watch. He’s demonstrated this through films like That Sinking Feeling, Gregory’s Girl and Comfort and Joy, but the one film everyone always goes back to is Local Hero.
Which is not just one of the best British films ever made, but one of the best movies ever made period.
A sentimental tale with a dark undercurrent, Local Hero tells the story of an oilman who travels from America to a beautiful remote Scottish village in order to buy the area and dynamite it to build an oil refinery for his eccentric boss.
However, it’s only after spending more time at the village that he realises the importance of the place, being overcome by the magic and wonder of the town. This is a tale about how an environment is not something that can be possessed or controlled but can really be seen as a privilege.
In one brilliant scene, we see our conflicted protagonist trying to buy the beach from its owner, only for the owner to then pick up a handful of sand and offer to sell for the same number of pound notes as he has grains of sand that he’s holding. That scene alone is one of many iconic sequences that perfectly get across the underlying themes and messages that Forsyth lays out in this movie and you only have to see it for yourself to see how it all pans out.
What’s even more impressive is that, in the amount of time Forsyth uses to tell his story, we feel as though you have had a lifelong relationship with these characters. We see Mac’s transformation from the normal corporate sycophant into someone who has deep connection and understanding with the village he visits, feeling for the first time in his life that he finally belongs somewhere and when he gets sent back to his suburban home by the end, he feels almost detached from his surroundings.
Peter Riegert brilliantly sells this in his nuanced performance, but he’s not the only one who shines in this film. Burt Lancaster is excellent as the starry-eyed business mogul, as is Fulton Mackay as the beachcomber who’s refusing to give up his land. However, it’s Peter Capaldi who shines in his first major film role, way before his Doctor Who years, as the fumbling but very memorable business representative that accompanies the main protagonist on his journey while also going on a bit of a transformation himself.
This is a wonderful film that still holds up and stands as Bill Forsyth’s masterpiece. It has wonderful performances, an excellent story with brilliant underlying themes and messages at the heart of it, superb direction, precise cinematography by Chris Menges and a soothing yet melancholic score by Mark Knopfler. If you haven’t seen it already, Local Hero is a film that deserves your time and pleasure.
Dir: Bill Forsyth
Scr: Jessica Hynes
Cast: Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Fulton Mackay, Burt Lancaster, Peter Capaldi
Prd: David Puttnam, Iain Smith
DOP: Chris Menges
Run time: 111 mins
Local Hero is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.