Wednesday, April 26, 2006

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

1995, UK, directed by Christopher Monger

Part of the post-Four Weddings wave of Hugh Grant films, Englishman is the tale (based on a true story) of a London-based surveying team dispatched to the Welsh border, where they discover that a local 'mountain' is in fact a few feet short of that designation, and is instead a humble hill - news that the locals take great exception to. With a streamlined plot (the villagers hear the bad news and implement a scheme to deal with it), the film's running time is mostly devoted to the local characters (or indeed caricatures): the randy publican; the moralizing reverend; the feisty local lass, and so forth. It's not entirely light-hearted, though, for the film takes place against the backdrop of the First World War, and most of the younger men are absent. The villagers' efforts to reclaim the mountain are with the absent soldiers very much in mind, lending a melancholic note to cut through the whimsy, while the real-life echo in the closing minutes has a surprising power.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States