Local Hero (1983)

Local Hero (1983)

“I could grow to love this place.”

When an American oil company representative (Peter Riegert) is sent by his astronomy-loving boss (Burt Lancaster) to negotiate the sale of coastal land in Ferness, Scotland, he is surprised to find that most of the villagers — with the exception of a beach-owning hermit (Fulton MacKay) — are eager to sell; meanwhile, he quickly finds himself enchanted by their quirky way of life.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Burt Lancaster Films
  • Comedy
  • Scottish Films
  • Village Life

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “whimsical, enchanting comedy by Bill Forsyth” is thematically comparable to “Frank Capra’s films” in that “innocence is restored to corrupted city-dwellers through contact with small-town folk” as “money, power, and work suddenly seem unimportant.” Indeed, protagonist “Riegert finds peace and happiness among the relaxed, friendly oddballs who inhabit this town”, and “is soon under the warm spell of the glorious, magical night sky.”

Peary notes that “it is as much a joy for us as it is for Riegert to meet the villagers, especially Denis Lawson, who wears numerous hats — including innkeeper, philosophical bartender, unofficial mayor, accountant — yet always has time for a roll in the sack with his wife (Jennifer Black).”

Peary adds that “then there’s the pretty marine biologist (Jenny Seagrove) with webbed toes” who “may live in the sea”, who Riegert’s business companion (Peter Capaldi) instantly falls for.

Peary points out that “the characters [in this film] are never predictable”, and the fact that “Riegert also soon acts out of character is [an] indication of their ingratiating charm.” He concludes his review by noting that he finds “it hard to believe that this town with these people doesn’t exist.”

I agree with Peary’s positive assessment of this film, and will simply add that also of note (though unmentioned by Peary) is Burt Lancaster giving a solid performance in one of his quirky later-life roles.

Note: Watch for John Gordon Sinclair — star of Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl (1980) — in a cameo as the boyfriend of a punk rocker.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Chris Menges’ cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as an enjoyable slice-of-life comedy.


  • Foreign Gem


One thought on “Local Hero (1983)

  1. First viewing (4/18/20). Agreed; must-see, as an all-round good show. As posted in ‘Film Junkie’ (fb):

    “I mean, nobody ever said that it was going to be easy to be a millionaire.”

    ‘Local Hero’: A very dry (sometimes quite subtle) sense of humor permeates writer / director Bill Forsyth’s 1983 tale of corporation vs. environment. In a small-ish but still somewhat flashy supporting role, Burt Lancaster is a noticeably sentimental Houston oil businessman with a side interest in astronomy. Still… expansion comes first – so he sends a reluctant executive (Peter Riegert) to a coastal village in Scotland, with the purpose of buying it in order to establish a refinery. What follows by way of cross-cultural exchange is a series of large and small negotiations… and small, gentle, satisfying and eventually surprising pleasures for the viewer.

    Since the plot is minimal, the film unfolds as a series of connected vignettes, rich in slowly-revealed character studies. Guiding the multiple characters seamlessly is Forsyth’s delightfully wry sensibility – which led him to receiving BAFTA’s Best Director award. (The film was also included in the National Board of Review’s Top Ten for the year.)

    I recall Forsyth’s unique touch as being a particular plus for my favorite film of his, ‘Housekeeping’. I hadn’t seen this film before. It’s the kind of film that you need to allow to work its quiet way into you as it progresses; its rewards are plenty. Occasionally, some of the Scottish accents prove a bit of a challenge – but I didn’t find that to be much of a problem. There’s also some rather lovely Scottish music.

Leave a Reply