The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain Review

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When an English cartographer must tell a Welsh village that their mountain is only a hill, the offended community sets out to change that.


Despite its unwieldy title, this sweet-natured, little tale is blessed by pure simplicity. In 1917, two starch-collared English cartographers, Reginald Anson (Grant) and George Garrad (Ian McNeice), arrive in the small, picturesque Welsh village of Ffynnon Garw to measure the local landmark, which the villagers proudly boast as “the first mountain of Wales”. Their task is a straightforward one: if the summit extends to a height of 1,000 ft, the peak will be classed as a mountain; if not, it will be relegated to hill status and will not appear on the official government map.
Their arrival sparks much controversy and consternation among the locals. And when the peak is indeed found to be lacking in stature, they rally round, under the spiritual guidance of the eccentric, ageing reverend (a thundering Kenneth Griffith), to add the requisite 16 extra feet needed to qualify it as a mountain. In the meantime they draft in the flirtatious charms of good-time gal Betty of Cardiff (Fitzgerald) to keep the Englishmen, and Grant in particular, pre-occupied while the villagers set about their task.
Written by Chris Monger with a fine sense of whimsy, and an eye and an ear for the quirky nuance of village life, this is the kind of amusingly quaint, faintly absurd, homespun comedy that we used to do so well in the 30s, 40s and 50s. And although Grant heads up the cast, this an ensemble piece, with a rich assortment of supporting oddballs — the carrot-thatched Meaney is outstanding as the lusty, local landlord, Morgan the Goat. Grant, as we have seen often enough, can play the sensitive, twittering fop better than anybody, and while he’s given little here to stretch his acting muscles, stammering and grinning away perhaps a tad too self-consciously for his and the film’s ultimate good, he’s as appealing as he was in Four Weddings. Forget recent scandals, and float away on a cloud of pure charm. A pleasant valley Sunday afternoon movie.

Good natured and, as usual, Hugh is a delight.