Movie review by Andrea Karen Hammer
At first glance, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain (1995) is a movie that appears deceivingly simplistic.
The film, based on a story that Christopher Monger heard from his grandfather, is about the real village of Taff’s Well and Garth Hill. The story focuses on the measurement of a hill, which the townspeople consider a mountain as a point of pride. To meet the requirement of 1,000 feet, neighbors join forces on foot–carrying dirt in hand-held buckets–to increase the summit.
Movie Capturing Stunning Images of People vs. Power of Nature
Set to lilting music, a slow but steady stream of walkers is contrasted against stunning and expansive skylines. Distance shots reveal the line of young and old spread across the land to achieve their labor-intensive goal. Together, they battle and embrace nature, which always maintains the upper hand and proper perspective.
Scenes involving an intense storm, with blinding lightning, serve as harsh reminders of the townspeople’s ultimate lack of control. Washing away most of their hard work, the torrential rains temporarily dampen their hopes. In the light of day, the extraordinary ensemble rises again to redouble their efforts–with the help of horses and wagons to speed up the process this time.
In a slightly different role from his usual fare, Hugh Grant seems right at home. His signature ticks are still present, but only occasional stammering results in a more natural performance. Freedom from stiff jackets with tight neck enclosures–often worn in other films–also help the actor seem more at ease playing Reginald Anson.
Entertaining Cast of Characters in Delightful Romp and Romantic Comedy
As Reverend Jones, Kenneth Griffith captures a character who is wound tight as a drum. From his Sunday rants in church to insistent community lectures, every bug-eyed expression threatens to burst a vein. Although seemingly over the top to some viewers, others thought the performance was award worthy.
Talented supporting actors add flavor and humor to this collection of quirky townsfolk. Particularly notable were Ian McNeice as George Garrad, Colm Meaney as Morgan the Goat and Tara Fitzgerald as the saucy temptress Elizabeth. Their shenigans, along with others, make the film a delightful romp.
The opportunity to see the actual people involved in this historic tale was wonderful at the end of the film. Watching later generations carrying buckets of dirt up the hill to supplement the receding mountain was also uplifting.
Most of all, the movie’s simple story leaves an enduring impression. After watching the film a second time, the message still hits home with equal power: A problems can be conquered a bucket at a time, particularly through a town’s collective and determined effort.
Questions for Artsphoria’s Online Film Forum
What did you think about the pace of The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain? Did you find the simple story engaging, and why or why not? What moments did you find memorable in this romantic comedy, and why?
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