Whimsy looks easy, but it’s hard to make work; Christopher Monger’s lugubriously-titled drama makes light work of the usual clichés about a small, isolated community coming together to thwart the Establishment. It’s a similar vibe to Bill Forsyth’s genre classic Local Hero, with a Welsh village substituting for a Scottish coastal town, and there’s period detail to consider too; Monger’s film takes place in the aftermath of WWI, and our hero, the Englishman of the title, is recovering from PTSD he got while fighting at Verdun.
Reginald Anson (Hugh Grant) is a cartographer who arrives at the tiny Welsh village of Ffynnon Garw to measure the mountain that lies behind the dwelling-places; the problem is that a mountain needs to be over 1000 feet tall, and so the mound in question is technically only a hill. This inspires the villagers to gently sabotage their English visitors, and then to erect a flagpole on top of their hill; by carrying twenty feet of earth up the hill, they hope to delay the cartographers until there is a proper mountain to measure. Anson starts a tentative romance with Elizabeth (Tara Fitzgerald) while pub-owner Morgan the Goat (Colm Meaney) agrees to put aside his feud with the local Reverend (Kenneth Griffith) to restore the village’s pride…
The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain pretty much does what it says in the title; Grant’s character eventually comes round to the villagers’ scheme, and helps them, but there’s plenty of amusement to be had at the culture conflict. The English are presented as officious, but not hopeless or irredeemable, while the Welsh deliberately act dumb to conceal their genuine intentions; it’s funny that they can’t answer straight questions about the railway line or train times, but there’s method in what they do.
It’s nice to see Grant and Griffith working together here, reprising on their Four Weddings scene, and Meaney also scores as a ginger lothario who mends his ways. Slight it certainly is, but sometimes not everything has to be a big drama; this is one Englishman abroad that’s welcome as a classy, heart-warming fable that points out cultural divisions with a wry smile while working to unite those who stand against pencil-pushers worldwide.
I always appreciate whimsy done right. Will have to give this a look….
Is the correct answer. Very gentle, warm-hearted film…
I think that is the longest title I’ve yet seen.
It sounds interesting but between Hugh Grant and the $3 prime wants for a rent, I’ll have to pass.
Not my usual fare but I did see this and really enjoyed it, whimsy at its best.
I approve this message! No fan of whimsy normally, but this is a good laugh…
Gave this a miss at the time, it seemed too whimsical all round. But you give it a better sell so might have a look.
Wait, how is Grant romancing Fitzgerald if he’s playing an out hero? This is more confusing than the title . . .
Fixed. What’s confusing about the title?
Well, when he went up it, the height would be that of a hill. But having designated it as a mountain, he came back down. How does that work for you?