Director: Christopher Monger
Writer: Christopher Monger
Starring: Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald, Colm Meaney, Ian McNeice, Ian Hart, Kenneth Griffith
Set in 1917, against the backdrop of the First World War, The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain is a feel-good comedy about community spirit. Written and directed by Christopher Monger, who also wrote the book the film is based on, the film stars Hugh Grant and Ian McNeice as two English cartographers who are sent to the village Ffynnon Garw to measure the elevation of a nearby mountain that’s beloved by the villages.
This is one of those charming little films that takes what would be a mundane story and makes it into something entertaining and heart-warming. When the cartographers come back to the village to announce that the mountain is in fact a hill, the village is completely distraught, and they don’t want to accept it. Instead, they decide to add to the mountain, carrying buckets and buckets of soil to the summit to add twenty feet to it, so it can once again be classed as a mountain.
While most of the village are digging up fields and carrying them up the mountain, there are some who are tasked with keeping the Englishmen in the village so they can re-measure the mountain before moving on. Some of the funniest moments of the film come from them trying to do this, such as sabotaging the car they drove in on and pretending there’s no other way out of the village as the only trains are coal trains.
At its heart it’s about a community who are struggling with the effects of the war. They’ve suffered losses and there’s even someone who’s returned from the war suffering shellshock. Those who stayed home are working in the mines, which have become even more dangerous as they’ve forced to up their efforts. The declassifying of the mountain comes as the final blow to the small community and they rally together to try and change that.
Hugh Grant and his usual awkward charm shine throughout the little story, as he starts to help the village achieve their goal. He also falls in love with one of the locals, giving the film a romcom subplot throughout the later part of the story. Grant’s character is also at ends with his more jaded and cynical superior.
It all adds up to a low-stakes story that you can’t help but rally behind the quirky characters of the village. Perfect feel-good watching for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
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