"Local Hero": film review

Essay by YoddiHigh School, 11th gradeA-, July 2007

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The 1983 Bill Forsyth movie ‘Local Hero’ is a Scottish comedy based around a business deal. An American oil company wants to buy the little Scottish village of Ferness so the location can be turned into an oil refinery. Mac, an employee of Knox Oil, is sent to bargain for the village due to his Scottish last name, despite his actual nationality.

Set, at the start, in America then shortly into the film in the Scottish village of Ferness. It’s quite interesting; cutting from a busy urbanised industry area of a large city, to a small, laid-back village on the ocean. The Scottish countryside is a serene and simply stunning landscape; with the rolling green hills and rich blue ocean; you can tell that it’s very cold though, just by looking at it. Although the village itself is very bland and out-dated in style (interior and exterior) it has a comforting, almost peaceful, character about it that welcomes foreigners passing through or staying on.

The mysteriousness of Scotland also plays a part in the movie that fits perfectly, for example: the fog that envelops the car for the night once Danny hits a rabbit and petrifies it.

The characters, although different, all give a little piece of themselves to the script and the actors portray that well. Mac, the main character, is a lonely man absorbed in his career and has forgotten how to relate to people: talking on the phone to the person in the next room instead of just opening the door and talking face to face. Danny, Mac’s associate, is light-hearted and takes every chance he gets to go see Marina; walking off in his stilted, jerky style that always ends up in a run that looks like a bird about to take off (elbows tucked in). Gordon, the village innkeeper, pub owner, accountant, unofficial mayor, and ladies man is obviously a man of many talents and personalities (to his role), who wants the best for the people of Ferness (which shows in his bargaining); despite the obvious friendship Mac and he develop over the movie. The two love interests are Marina and Stella: two beautiful ladies one of which is a mysterious marine biologist and possible mermaid, while the other is Gordon’s partner who has taken the eye of Mac. Mr Happer, the boss of Knox Oil is an abrupt man but soft in the means of the planets; especially stars. A physiatrist thinks he’s helping Happer by trying to break his ego in all forms possible which might cause Happer to take out some of his frustration on his employees (arriving in Ferness and getting mad at Danny because he can’t find Mac). Ben Knox is a retired old man enjoying the virtues of the planet from his beach; slightly isolated Ben is an interesting and fun character.

Comedies can’t be comedies without a fair share of humour and I must say, the humour in this movie is rather alternate; maybe it’s just out-dated from when it was made until now, either way it’s weird to understand. One of the most random and unnecessary pieces of humour is when Mac asks the village people, “whose baby?” and no one answers, they all just go on as if no one had said anything; like there is no importance to the question. The straightforward humour from my point-of-view is when the Russian man is singing that song whilst mildly intoxicated, that kind of humour is more known; as someone being silly can never really not be funny. A slightly more ‘different’ type of humour, that also symbolises the transition from city slicker to countryman; is when Mac leaves his watch on a rock and whilst he’s searching for shells the tide comes in and covers the watch gets in water; causing it to continuously beep for its bearer who has completely forgotten it.

On the technology and creating side of it all: I found some very clever things along with the not so clever things. Starting with the sound tech/music side of this section; despite the music being an older style, it fits the scenery beautifully and even goes with the storyline (which is what all good sound techs aim for). One the camera/directing side of things; having the phone booth within almost every shot of the village is clever in the sense of it being the only form of connection keeping this village from being completely isolated (without driving for hours on end). While the shots of Mac’s apartment were smart in the form of getting into his mindscape, the shanty shots weren’t as good as they could’ve been: the smallest view of inside Ben’s lifestyle (shanty) could’ve made us understand him a lot better and the spin he puts on everything (paying in sand). All the technology in this film, although obviously technology generated, it was done well for the year in which it was made.

I personally, have nothing against this film but I wouldn’t be rushing out to rent it at a video store any time soon. The useless and pointless bits that were throughout the film annoyed me a bit and humour has evolved: so I admit my generation might not enjoy it as much as the people of that generation. It does have good messages and themes; that will make more sense once the visual response has been read, and you do get something out of watching it that can help with life experiences but there are more modern movies that give the same messages. All in all; a well done, although out-dated movie; two out of five red frogs.

Bibliography1. Local Hero, Bill Forsyth, film.