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Film / The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain

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The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain is a 1995 British historical comedy/drama directed by Christopher Monger, starring Hugh Grant and Colm Meaney.

In 1917, two English cartographers come to a small Welsh village to measure the local mountain, Ffynnon Garw, for the official British maps. The villagers are very proud of Ffynnon Garw ("the first mountain in Wales") and are rather upset to learn that that it's just under the 1000 feet required to be considered a mountain, and thus will not appear on the map.

Quickly, the villagers hatch a plan to add a mound to the top to bring it up to the requirement, while conspiring to keep the cartographers in town long enough to measure it again.


This film provides examples of:

  • All Take and No Give: Morgan is much better at telling people what they have to do than actually doing those things. Often accompanied by an exasperated cry of "I can't do it all myself!"
  • Arc Words: "Do you want me to have to say it all failed because of you?"
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The film heavily implies that it's based on a true story. In fact, it is based on a local legend, but one that has no basis in fact.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Williams the Petroleum tells Anson and Garrod that their car's "be'chi'ngalw" is broken, claiming not to know the English word. Be'chi'ngalw is the Welsh equivalent of "thingimajig."
  • Blatant Lies:
    • It becomes increasingly obvious to Anson and Garrad that the town is conspiring to keep them there, but there's little they can do about it.
      Anson: We weren't able to get a train, it appears the lines are flooded. Funny, though, the coal trains seem to be running just fine.
      Morgan: (beat) Different lines.
      Anson: Ah, I knew there was a simple explanation. (To Garrad) You see, it's different lines!
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    • There is also their claim that the town flagpole (which they're using as a measuring post for the mound) was taken away for "dry rot." In Wales.
  • Book-Ends: Early on when the cartographers declare Flynnon Garw a hill, the pastor says a despondent "a hill?" and sighs. On the Distant Finale, when Flynnon Garw is declared a hill again, the pastor's voice says the same line from the grave.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Thomas Twp One and Two.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Their idea to protect the mound from rain—by appropriating the sod from the school's football field—worked out pretty well.
  • Close-Knit Community: When the status of their mountain is threatened, almost everyone in town rallies to fix it. Even the preacher and the barkeeper are willing to work together.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: The proposal about making Flynnon Garw taller mentions that some hills have had structures built on the top added to its total measurement—including graves. Guess where the pastor ended up being buried?
  • Deadpan Snarker: Morgan the Goat, especially when dealing with the Pastor.
    Pastor Jones: Have you no shame sir?
    Morgan: No. [pats his pockets] I can't think where I've left it.
  • Distant Finale: The end shows the descendants of the villagers in modern times. They learn that the mound has settled back under 1000 feet, and the final scene shows them hauling dirt by hand to build it back up.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Morgan brings Betty to town in hopes of "distracting" Anson. It ends up working, but not in the way he'd planned.
  • During the War: One reason that Ffynnon Garw's status is so important to the villagers is because World War I has devastated the town's population.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The movie's title is a pretty thorough summary of its plot.
  • Get Out!: Blod, Johnny Shellshocked's sister, tells her sometimes-boyfriend Morgan to get off her doorstep after he brings Johnny home from a bad flashback. Morgan had pushed him and Williams to put a tarp over the mound during a thunderstorm.
  • Heroic RRoD: The pastor had a weak heart. His continuous walking up and down Flynnon Garw to help with the efforts to make it taller drove him into a heart attack.
  • I Choose to Stay: At the end, Anson and Betty announce their engagement, with the implication that he returned to the village and married her.
  • Is That the Best You Can Do?: When Anson promises to try to come back for another measurement.
    Betty: "I'll try"? Is that the best you can do?
  • Is That What They're Calling It Now?:
    Morgan: She's just advising me on the refurbishing of my establishment!
    Mavis: Refurbishing your establishment? I've never heard it called that before!
  • Long Title
  • No Antagonist: The primary conflict is a race against time before the cartographers go home. No one's antagonistic, and the worst characters are merely indifferent.
  • The Noun Who Verbed: The title.
  • Planet of Steves: Discussed. There are only a few last names in the village, so everyone is referred to as both name and occupation (Williams the Petroleum, Jones the Baker, etc). This is a Running Joke about Wales in general.
  • Really Gets Around: Morgan the Goat.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: With the notable exception of the schoolmaster, everyone in town participates in the plot, including the pastor and and the town constable. They even help sabotage the cartographers' car to keep them in town.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When the only way to finish the mountain is to work on the Sabbath, the pastor ends up deciding that it's more important to finish what they started, and gives the town his blessing to keep working.
    • Notably, the pastor is praying to God to give him a sign whether he should break the rule about working on the Sabbath or not. Then his eyes fall on Psalm 99:9.... "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy." He takes that to mean that God has given him permission to break the rules, and he gives his sermon with a passion.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Johnny Shellshocked. His commitment to building the mountain gives him enough purpose to start recovering from his trauma.
    • Also Anson, as it turns out. Though he's largely recovered, this is the reason he's making maps in Britain instead of at war.
  • Straw Vulcan: Davies the School. He first earns his fellow citizens' ire when he places his bet for Ffynon Garw being under 1000 feet. He's also unhappy about his fields being ripped up for the sod and finally gives up on attempting to hold class when only one child shows up—every other parent has put their kids to work on the bucket chain.
  • Trauma Button: Being caught outside in a thunderstorm causes Johnny Shellshock to think he's being attacked by German artillery and fall into a catatonic state as a result.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The film is presented as an old man explaining to his grandson how the titular Englishman got his name.

Example of: