Starring: Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson
Director/Writer: Bill Forsyth
Distributor: Roadshow Entertainment
Big cities can blind people to the beauty of nature and the simple pleasures of life; things like beachcombing and star gazing and watching a perfect sunset. But, as one character in this charming little film points out; “You can’t eat scenery”. So, when a negotiator for a big Texas oil company comes to buy up the picturesque Scottish town of Furness and turn it into the petrochemical capital of the free world, the locals start whispering, not only about food but about Porches and Maserattis.
Peter Riegert is the American acquisitions man, Mac MacIntyre, chosen for the assignment because of his Scottish ancestry (little does his boss know that his real roots lay in Hungary). Before leaving his office in downtown Jefferson, Mac is invited up through the glass ceiling to meet the head of Knox Oil and Gas, Felix Happer (the wonderful Burt Lancaster), a man more interested in chasing comets than acquiring further earthly possessions. He instructs Mac to keep an eye out for unusual astronomical events in the northern skies, particularly in the constellation of Virgo.
Later, when Mac actually witnesses a meteor shower followed by an amazing Aurora Borealis, he’s on the phone back to H.Q. raving about the rare phenomena. In fact, so taken is he by the gentle charm of Furness and its inhabitants that, in a drunken moment, he proposes he swap places with the town’s chief negotiator, Godon Urquart (Denis Lawson), who also functions as the town’s publican/hotelier/chef/taxi driver and virile bedfellow to the lovely Stella (Jennifer Black). The only downside to the place appears to be the regular fly-overs by Harrier Jump jets, hell bent on bombing a nearby beach.
As with last wee’s ‘Reel Classic’, Bliss, this film marks a moment in time when we were questioning the value of progress at any cost and re-examining the priceless qualities of a healthy community in synch with nature’s rhythms. It’s a dilemma that is with us still. Full of subtle humour, pitch perfect performances, glorious scenery and memorable score by Mark Knopfler, Local Hero is a timeless little gem.