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Local Hero (1983)

Reach for the stars

Directed by:

Bill Forsyth

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 111 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

Bill Forsyth, arguably still the directorial world's best-kept secret, followed up the delightful 'Gregory's Girl' with this magical, intelligent comedy about an American wheeler-dealer who falls in love with the piece of Scottish land he's about to help buy over.

Peter Riegert is Mac, the Houston businessman flown to the fictional Highlands fishing village of Ferness to negotiate a deal with the locals to buy their land – land wanted by his eccentric boss (Burt Lancaster) to use as a North Sea oil base. Having found more friends within this tiny population than a lifetime in the big city, and captivated by the beautiful beachside surroundings, Mac soon finds himself not wanting to leave. The villagers, meanwhile, have more than a few surprises tucked up their sleeves.

Don't be mistaken for thinking this is nostalgic whimsy meant to leave us yearning for a simpler way of life – far from it. This story is about capitalism at work, one of many expectations to be turned on its' head as the tale unfolds. Forsyth plays with the stereotypes set out by set-in-stone Scottish fair such as 'Whisky Galore' and 'Brigadoon'. The supposedly idyllic peace is interrupted at regular intervals by low-flying fighter planes and a roving motorcyclist; Mac (despite his misleading name) turns out to be of Hungarian rather than Scottish descent; local minister Murdo (again with a misleading name) is a black African. And, best of all, the villagers can't wait to get their hands on the huge wads of cash rumoured to be flying around.

The cinematography on show is little short of amazing. With such scenery available to play with, it's no wonder there's such regular reference made to both the sea and the stars (in fact, even the two main female characters are called Stella and Marina).

The humour is quiet, slow-paced and under-played – here lies a brand of comedy thankfully left as-of-yet untouched by the Jim Carreys and Adam Sandlers of this world. You don't always have to pull a face or yell at the top of your voice to convince people that you're funny.

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It's Got: A distressingly-fresh batch of rabbit stew.

It Needs: A touch of salt.

DVD Extras Stills gallery. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Gregory's Girl, Soft Top Hard Shoulder, The Maggie

Summary

Bill Forsyth's finest work of all, this is a perfect film. It might even give you an urge for a wee dram of whisky.

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