The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995)   

Reviewer: Charity Bishop


In a small Welsh-speaking town just at the foothills where everyone is either Jones or Thomas, there is one man who stands out in history. The man with the longest name in the history of Wales: The Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain. A small lad inquires of his grandfather just how this came about and is told the story that thus follows.


1917, during the war in which a great many Welshmen were taken away (resulting in a great many Irish redheaded tots being born, to the disgust of the born and bred proper Reverend Jones) there came two surveyors from London to evaluate and map England and the far reaches of the Welsh territories. Young Reginald Anson and his beer-drinking rather lazy superior Mr. Garrad find their welcome a wary one for everyone else is in chapel, save for the one man in town that Reverend Jones despises... 'Morgan the Goat, who runs the local pub... and is the father of all the Irish tots. The knowledge that they are there to survey the 'mountain' that looms above the small town soon spreads like wildfire and the whole town turns out for the outcome. They are far from pleased when a rough estimate of the height surmises that it is indeed merely a 'hill' -- at about 930 feet. The final height will be determined by morning in the occurrence that they have underestimated... or over-estimated. The town's relief, however, is short-lived when all their bets (ranging from 2,130 feet on up) are wrong in that their "mountain" is indeed a "hill" at 982 feet.


Insulted and outraged in that Wales is known for its mountains and they might as well "redraw the borders and put us in bloody England!" Reverend Jones calls a town meeting to determine what should be done. His idea of a formal protest is rebuffed by Morgan's idea that they merely add twenty feet to their mountain. And so what erupts is a hilarious attempt to rewrite nature as we know it and keep the surveyors from leaving town in every way possible -- from pouring sugar down their auto car's fuel line to engaging the talents of a known maidservant, Betty, to keep Reginald occupied. Unfortunately turmoil lies ahead not only for poor Mr. Garrad, who would wish to be as far from Wales as he may, but for the townspeople -- and several days of a deluge of rain in which their mound of dirt turns into a muddied pile. With a host of hilarious side characters and minor plots, from the Reverend who prays for forgiveness before slitting their tires, to the young war veteran who never says a word, The Englishman is nothing short of pure, uninhibited fun. 


Filled with running gags, hilarious instances of comic relief, and yet a touching storyline that borders on the ridiculous, it makes achieves the height of Waking Ned Devine in comedy and class. There are a few cravats to be wary of -- some mild language, the most of which winds up as "bloody hell" and about nine instances of "God." The Welsh accents are thick and sometimes the dialog is difficult to understand, which seems to add to the overall charm. Morgan's something of a playboy and while nothing is ever seen, it can be easily surmised what goes on behind locked doors. He once touches Betty's chest (and is nearly clouted for it) and the couple's obvious aversion in a love-hate relationship is hilarious in itself, from her never ending "put it on my tab" to threatening him with a knife in the larder. The pastor makes several remarks about red-headed babies, which alludes to Morgan's involvement with numerous women.


Otherwise, there's little to be wary of. They do drink a great deal but most of it is done by Gerrad who suffers the effects of a headache the following morning. The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain is a cute if somewhat lengthy diversion from ordinary life. The costumes and overall charm of Wales with the beautiful rolling countryside is delightful. It won't satisfy those with a passion for action but for those of us who enjoy a good story and delight in rolling accents and period circumstance, it proves a nice turn from the everyday rustic of drama.