The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain
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Comedy favorite Hugh Grant (Did You Hear About the Morgans?) stars as a young man who offends an entire town by declaring their mountain—a prized local landmark—to be a ""hill"". But he soon finds the eccentric locals, led by a witty innkeeper (Colm Meaney, Get Him to The Greek), will stop at nothing to defend their honor. While the townspeople rally around their mountain, a fiery young woman (Tara Fitzgerald) charms the puzzled out-of-towner into seeing things their way. You'll be elevated by laughter as the hilarious townspeople rise to the occasion—and the bewildered visitor stumbles into love when he least expects it!
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Top Customer Reviews
So what happens in this epic story about the Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain? On Sunday, 17 June 1917, cartographers/retired army officers Reginald Anson and George Garrad come to a Welsh village to measure Ffynnon Garw to determine whether it's a hill or a mountain. Their presence causes anxiety among the villagers, who are on pins and needles when they hear the British standard of a mountain defined as anything over 1,000 feet. The Britons stay at the inn of the cheeky Morgan the Goat (as opposed to Morgan the Sheep?), intending to leave after their task is completed. However, guess what height Ffynnon Garw is less than?
The villagers put things in motion with two objectives: one, to make sure their beloved Ffynnon Garw becomes a mountain, and two, to extend the Britons' stay, such as something involving two pounds of sugar and a gas tank, and a knife. The first objective forms the action of the movie, villagers moving dirt from their gardens bucket by bucket, tray by tray, through toil, sweat, and sacrifice, and placing them...guess where? And excuses for delay? The war--take note of the date listed above.
There's also a conflict between the religiously fervent Reverend Jones and Morgan, as the latter doesn't go to church and plies alcohol. When Jones asks Morgan, "Have you no shame?" Morgan flippantly pats himself down and says "No, can't think where I left it" and walks off, leaving Jones fuming.
During the movie, we see that the younger Anson is more sympathetic and humble to the villagers, while the stout and older Garrod is more logical, arrogant, and looks down on the Welsh. A typical British attitude during the period of Empire there. Anson is also taken by Betty, a maid who comes to help Morgan tend bar and also to charm the cartographers. It all goes back to Anglo-Welsh relations. The Welsh have had a rough time of it all, like the Irish. Those who survive the trenches of France return to labour only to die for coal. Sad times indeed for the Welsh.
The whole point of the movie is not just the standard height set for a mountain, but Welsh pride, of national identity. For the Welsh, all they have for monuments are mountains, no pyramids or temples. And if Ffynonn Garw isn't a mountain, then Anson might as well redraw the map and put the Welsh in England. After all, as Morgan tells Betty, "Maps are the undergarments of a country, they give shape to continents." And what's in a measurement anyway? As Morgan says, "Do we call a short man a boy or a small cat a dog? No! This is a mountain, our mountain, and if it needs to be a thousand feet, then by God let's make it a thousand feet!E In other words, it's all relative.
The concept of telling the village people with identical surnames by their occupation or personality is ingenious and charming, so we can tell the difference between Williams the Petroleum from Williams the Deaf. Some are more telling, as in the case of Johnny Shellshock. And there are the Thomas Twps: Thomas Twp and his brother Thomas Twp 2. As one of them says, "we've no learning than most, so people say we're twp, but we're not twp as to not know that we're twp." Right, that makes sense.
All the leads are splendid, particularly Colm Meaney as Morgan the Goat and Kenneth Griffith as the strict but passionate Reverend Jones. And Hugh Grant (Anson) has another charming leading lady, Tara Fitzgerald (Betty), who ranks up there with Andie McDowell (Four Weddings) and Martine McCutcheon (Love Actually). She really has a winning smile and saucy brogue that makes her character lovable. And darn if Ian Hart keeps popping up, be it Harry Potter, Michael Collins, and now here, as Johnny Shellshock.
A wonderful little movie with a wonderful Celtic score, as the ideas and themes that emerge make this more than a one-joke movie. And for you boyos, this was written by Hamlow_the_Writer_Who_Went_Up_A_Paragraph_But_Climbed_Down_A_Review.
So the tale of a small Welsh village is told thru the voice of the last living participant to The Day Ffynnon Garw Built A Mountain.
A result of the newly invented airplane entering the battlefield, and by order of his Majesty, a nationwide geographical survey is undertaken. Two-man survey teams are sent out across the land to accurately map the significant features - mountains, hills and valleys.
One particular team has been tasked with western England.
Way off the beaten track, a rural village lay in the shadow of Mount Ffynnon Garw, the so-called First Mountain Of Wales. A quiet little hamlet whose townsfolk are made up of the ubiquitous mix of funny, sympathetic, and quirky peoples. Country folk for whom hard work is the Lord's work.
Understandably curious about the official Crown Survey, lively debate surrounds how big their mountain actually is; congregating at the town pub to discuss the matter, laughter and good cheer abound.
Supremely confidant "the English" will find nothing untoward and will quickly move on - the news they deliver comes as shock. The surveyors make the terrible pronouncement that their mountain, their singular claim to Welsh pride, the stone embodiment of their combined hearts and souls - is technically a hill. Their calculations are accurate. At 884 feet, short by sixteen feet, their mountain - isn't. And once recorded into the national charts it will be forever known as Ffynnon Garw Hill.
One couldn't have done worse to the already decimated people had they dropped a bomb directly into the center of the village. Already emotionally and physically devastated from supporting the war effort and the omnipresent life-devouring coal mine - the people will brook no further wounds. Especially from two Englishmen.
Determined to reclaim their 1,000 foot "mountain" status, the residents embark on a massive collective effort to close the 20 foot gap - by building upon Ffynnon Garw's summit with freshly tilled earth, back-breaking sweat, and even tears. Johnny Shellshock, broken survivor of the French trenches, whose battlefield experiences have left him mute, speaks for the first time in over a year to enjoin his fellows to take on the challenge.
The quest becomes a race as the townsfolk have to devise various ploys to prevent the cartographers from leaving before they can bridge the shortfall. Suddenly, the team's automobile breaks down; the broken part cannot be secured for several days. The cheapskate pub proprietor suddenly supplies them with an unending stream of alcohol. And even a comely maiden is secured to entice the handsome Mr. Anson; the young veteran who begins to sense, unlike his drunken disinterested partner, the magnitude surrounding their seemingly simple task.
A wonderful light comedy with Hugh Grant at his dry best. Kudos to Colm Meaney who, despite a faltering accent, was enjoyable as the pub proprietor and town "father".
- As pointed out at the beginning of the film, given the few family surnames in their village, sharing a name is both commonplace and confusing. To address that situation, one is given a nickname usually associated with one's profession or significant personality trait. So John Evans might be Evans The Butcher or Evans The Clerk, and so on.
Also explaining how one resident was given the longest name in Ffnnon Garw history: The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill, But Came Down A Mountain.
- I would be remiss and cursed if I did not highlight the *amazing* performance of late UK actor Kenneth Griffith. A potent delivery of character as Ffnnon Garw's guiding pastor, Reverend Jones. Genuinely hilarious as the overseer and protector of the town's collective soul, and the character who first foresees the horror that will befall the village should their mountain be downgraded.
Movies of similar beauty, heart, and soul include Waking Ned Devine, Fairy Tale: A True Story, Shakespeare in Love, and The Secret of Roan Inish. I'm now buying a copy to give my mother as a gift, and look forward to watching it on our home theater system. A movie of the people, with quiet in-jokes between English and Welsh that seem to elude the Ugly AmeriMalkin.
Spend a couple of hours with the people of Wales, and feel your heart expand with the love and care and fun of this fine film. There aren't enough of such gems available!