Film review: Local Hero

We watched a 1983 movie called Local Hero this afternoon because we’re planning to go up to Pennan, where it was filmed, in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait.

I find myself longing for the natural world and for peace and tranquility and so we decided to plan a weekend away to a remote seaside village up north. I had never heard of Local Hero until I started planning our weekend away but I knew it would appeal to me – it’s set in Scotland, stars Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) and features music from Mark Knopfler (lead singer and songwriter from Dire Straits).

It’s a funny drama about an American oil company that want to buy up a section of coast in Scotland to build an oil refinery – they just need to convince all the locals to sell up. All but one want the cash and it’s this one old eccentric fisherman who owns the beach and who stands in the way of millions. Eventually he gets his way and the plan is scrapped.

The movie reminds me a bit of the real-life drama at Balmedie Beach in Scotland where Donald Trump built his golf course. It also has a local hero, Michael Forbes. Sadly the real-life drama doesn’t have as good an ending as that in Local Hero. Trump got his golf course and Michael Forbes and his neighbours have had a pretty dreadful time since Trump moved in. Trump’s promise of jobs for the local community never materialised either. If Americans who voted for Donald Trump think he will deliver on his promises they should have a look at his track record and Balmedie is a great example of failed promises.

Aberdeen harbour was developed by oil companies decades ago.It’s a ghastly place now. They’ve butchered it.Was it worth it? I don’t think so but then I guess we all value different things. Some people value fast cars. I value the natural world.

18 responses to “Film review: Local Hero”

  1. Oh, I love that movie. Ever so slightly jealous that you’re getting to visit that part of Scotland – I’ve only ever been around St Andrews, Edinburgh and Stirling.

  2. Your post makes me feel old Rachel. I saw Local Hero after it had been out for a while – I was probably too busy with work at the time and got it on VHS tape! It’s a really great movie with some interesting social commentary, especially if you can catch some of the dialect and notice things like the jets buzzing the environment, the threads referencing education and scientific research (the marine biologist and her webbed toes) and the rather symbolic repeated appearance of the rabbits at the movie’s opening! There’s quite a lot happening in that little film. And the music’s great too!
    I recently watched an old 8mm film of me and my younger siblings walking around Aberdeen’s fishing harbour in 1964. It was crammed with ancient – some still steam driven – wooden and steel fishing boats, all painted with rather gaudy colours and all with exotic names like ‘North Sea Star’, ‘Maid of the Mist’ etc. The harbour edge was dominated (the day I visited) by enormous sheds full of men yelling and bidding for great boxes of fish on beds of ice. All very exciting and exotic for an 11yo. I found Scotland to be a very evocative place in terms of the environment and the natural world. We lived at Cults just to the South – I remember being aware that we were ‘on the edge’ of the city with rather wild forest, farmland and the river Dee just over the back lane.
    Playing with the local kids, I guess I had a very strong sense at the time that people could really be a legitimate and natural part of a landscape. Even as an 11 yo I felt that the Scots seemed to have found a point of balance in that natural world. In 1964 – just before oil – it was a very special place. It may well still be I guess…

    • Cults is a lovely part of Aberdeen and is very expensive and sought after today. I cycle through it whenever I go to Newton Dee which is in Bieldside, the next suburb along. It’s a very nice part of the world and although Aberdeen is a city, you don’t have to go far at all to be surrounded by forest, farmland, and the river Dee is everywhere.

      I would love to see a photo of how Aberdeen harbour looked in 1964. Do you have any photos you can share? I’ve often wondered what it was like before big oil moved in. I posted some photos of what’s it’s like today in a blog post I wrote about Footdee a couple of years ago:

      It’s really dreadful. I shake my head in disbelief that they were allowed to do all of that, especially in a place with so much natural beauty, history, and so much sea life. There are dolphins that swim in the mouth to the harbour. It’s so sad.

  3. ah the sweet spot; like Sam above I saw this at the time and it made Linda and me go to Scotland on holiday – it was the ultimate travelogue. We’ve been back every year since as a result of that love affair through film – and I’ve just put the finishing touches to a post that has the music in it – should be out in a couple of days. We saw Knopfler at Wembley in 88 and swooned when he played this.. If you liked this film – made by the wondrous Bill Forsyth, try Gregory’s girl from a couple of years before – delightful, gentle comedy.

    • I’m starting to realise this is a bit of a cult film and I can see why. It’s a bit quirky and unusual and although funny it will also make you cry. I’ll put Gregory’s Girl on my list. It looks good!

      Where do you usually go when you come to Scotland for holidays? Do you go to the same place each year or somewhere different?

      • We mix. There’s an island near Oban you access by a causeway with a hotel on it the family adores that we go to every couple of years we visit Edinburgh or Glasgow once or twice for the culture- festival etc but otherwise we go all over mostly on the west it must be said. Last year we ventured to Harris and Lewis which was fab

      • That sounds great. I’m already planning the holiday after the next one and we’re going to go to the west coast. I’m thinking the Isle of Skye to start with since everyone raves about it. I’ve been there once before but it was 20 years ago now and I don’t really remember it.

      • We loved Skye but we haven’t stayed for 15 years! But the Cuillins are beautiful Colbost has a fab restaurant (pandering to my stomach again) and the beaches on the west delightful.

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