Two years after Chariots of Fire, producer David Puttnam returned to the beach with this magical, ethereal gem set largely in a whimsical seaside village in northern Scotland. Peter Riegert plays a Texas oilman sent by his eccentric, astronomy-loving boss (Burt Lancaster) to buy up the whole village of Ferness as a future refinery site, but nothing goes as he expects. For one thing, the villagers are eager to sell out and get rich, though they feign indifference in order to drive the price up. For another thing, there’s a lovely marine biologist (the aptly named Jenny Seagrove) who may be a mermaid. And there’s a lone holdout, a wily old beachcomber who routinely finds treasures in the tides.
The town and its off-kilter rhythms begin to work their spell on Riegert, just as the film does with viewers, until he (and you) are reluctant to leave. A resolution comes from the heavens, along with a reminder that the grains of sand on the beach are as uncountable and wondrous as the stars in the night sky. Thirty years after From Here to Eternity, Lancaster once again finds a kindred spirit on the beach, and while it’s another old man, both are rendered boyish by their shared, ongoing ability to dream big.
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