“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.”
Happy Burns Night Folks! As a displaced Scotsman, I take any opportunity to celebrate my Scottish-ness. So as I get ready to tuck in to a hearty plate of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, accompanied of course by a nice wee dram, my thoughts, as they often do, turned to film. I have put together a list of some of my favourite Scottish Films
I thought long and hard about what actually counts as a Scottish film, is it a film set in Scotland? A Film about Scotland? A film made in Scotland? In the end, I have decided to go with films that just feel Scottish, have a Scottish identity if you will. I have left out the bigger films like Trainspotting and Braveheart in favour of sharing with you some of the lesser know films to come from my home land. So, raise a glass with me as I look back on some of my favourite Scottish films.
Local Hero (Dir, Bill Forsyth, 1983)
This is a wonderful film. It concerns Mac McIntyre, a hot shot executive working for a a big Oil Company in Texas. He is tasked by his boss Felix Happer (The wonderful Burt Lancaster) to go to the tiny Scottish village of Ferness to acquire it so they can build an oil refinery. He is gung ho at first, but the longer he stays in the village and gets to know its eccentric residents, the more he begins to love the slower paced life style. He then becomes conflicted, if his deal goes through, this village he loves will be gone forever
This is an utterly charming portrayal of small village life, actually filmed most in Aberdeenshire it really retains a Scottish identity. The brash American slowly thawing as he gets to know the town is beautifully handled by Forsyth (he won the BAFTA for Direction for this). He isn’t in a hurry and lets the character develop, but the film never drags, which is the mark of a great director. This is loaded with memorable characters and familiar Scottish faces including Peter Capaldi, Denis Lawson, Rikki Fulton, Fulton Mackay and John Gordon Sinclair.
The soundtrack is spot on and ‘Going Home (Theme of The Local Hero)’ has been adopted by Newcastle United, so as I now reside in the North East, I hear this song often and it always reminds me of this absolute gem of a film.
If you haven’t seen it, then dig it out. It is a treat.
Restless Natives (Dir, Michael Hoffman, 1985)
This was one of my favourite films growing up. It concerns to young men who don masks (a clown and a wolf mask) to rob tourist coaches in The Highlands of Scotland. Due to them targeting tourists and the non violent nature of the robberies, The Clown and The Wolfman quickly become folk heroes and ultimately tourist attractions.
I was first shown this by my cousin in the mid 80s, I was swept up in the Robin Hood-esque antics of The Clown and The Wolfman, put this together with a great soundtrack by Big Country and appearances by Ned Beatty, Mel Smith and Bernard Hill and you have a delightful comedy in the vein of Bill Forsyth.
This has dated pretty badly, but due to the memories of my childhood that it evokes, it will always be on my list and it is my fond hope that one day The Clown and The Wolfman will ride again!
Orphans (Dir, Peter Mullan, 1998)
This black comedy is the directorial debut of actor Peter Mullan, who also writes. It tells the story of 3 brothers and a sister who reunite for the funeral of their mother. The night before the funeral, the roof blows off the church and the film follows each character on their journey through the night.
The siblings go through a series of individual torments as the night progresses. Mullan takes us on quite an emotional journey. The film is sometimes violent, often laugh out loud funny and always somberly moving. The cast including the brilliant Douglas Hensall as the 2nd son, who get locked in a cellar, Billy Elliot’s Gary Lewis as the overly emotional eldest son, Stephen Cole (the Scottish bully in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore) is the hot heated youngest son, who goes on a crime spree with an air rifle and Rosemaire Stevenson as the disabled daughter who is adopted by a group of children when her wheelchair runs out of battery.
Set on the streets of Glasgow this works for me on so many levels. The journey of each character gets more surreal and darkly comic as the night progresses and Mullan has shot the city brilliantly. This wont be for everyone, but I hold fond memories of it.
Gregory’s Girl (Dir, Bill Forsyth, 1981)
A classic. At least in my neck of the woods it is. The story of unrequited love, football and teenage awkwardness.
This is tells the story of Gregory, an awkward teenager playing in his school football team. They are struggling, so the coach holds try outs and the star performer turns out to be a girl called Dorothy. She soon takes Gregory’s place up front and he is relegate to goalkeeper. Greogory falls in love with her and tries to win her heart.
I have used the term delightful a lot, but this is the very definition of a delightful film. John Gordon Sinclair is spot on as the gangling Gregory. Every man watching that film can identify with him in some way. He is rubbish with woman and rubbish at football. it was like looking in a mirror 🙂
The film is charming, funny and (haircuts aside) timeless.
Small Faces (Dir, Gilles MacKinnon, 1996)
Focusing on The Glasgow gangs of the 1960s, in particular, The Tongs, this film won Best Film at the 1996 Edinburgh Film Festival.
This came out in the same year as another little Scottish film called Trainspotting, so was slightly over shadowed by it. The story revolves around 3 teenage brothers in Glasgow towards the end of the 60s. Bobby is heavily involved in the gang scene, Alan is artistic and longs to make something of himself and 13 year old Lex, who just wants to be like Bobby. Things start to spiral out of control for the siblings when Lex accidentally shoots Malky the leader of The Tongs street gang with an air rifle.
This is a lovely piece of nostalgia and good look at the Glasgow gangland scene in the 60s. A great soundtrack and features turns from Kevin McKidd and Laura Fraser in early roles.
Difficult to get a hold of, but is definitely worth a look
Well, thank you for joining me on my little nostalgia trip. I hope I have inspired you to check out a few of these or at least awakened a few memories. Happy Burns Night to all.
Until next time, hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch ya later on down the trail.