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Friday, April 06, 2018

Local Hero

Back in the day a couple of friends raved about a movie called Local Hero. It took me thirty-five years to see it. My college buddy Joe puts it in his top ten. I didn't like it near that much, but it's simple charms are appealing. The movie kind of glides along, much of it without a conflict.

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth, Local Hero wins us over by defying expectations. A hot-shot employee of an oil company, Peter Reigert, is sent to a remote part of Scotland to buy up land for a refinery (he is sent because his name is McIntyre, but he is not Scottish). So we expect this to be a fight between the villagers and the big bad oil company, but no, the townspeople want the sale. They want to be rich.

For a few days Riegert and a local oil company employee, Peter Capaldi, just hang out, walking along the beach, collecting shells, and enjoying the local cuisine from hotelier Denis Lawson (who is also the town accountant). Forsyth, a Scotsman himself, resists the temptation of making the townspeople twinkling cliches--they're just people.

Then the conflict does arise. An old man who lives in a shack on the beach turns out to own it--it's been in his family for 400 years, and he's not about to sell. In comes the head of the company, Burt Lancaster. But he's not interested in business anymore, he hopes to discover a comet, and gets along with the old man, and a compromise is struck.

Local Hero is the kind of movie you watch to restore your faith in humanity. Though Forsyth doesn't engage in sentimentality, he does have a little magic realism. Capaldi is sweet on a marine biologist (Jenny Seagrove) whose web toes indicate she might have more ties to the sea than one might think.

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