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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill
but Came Down a Mountain

A hill in Wales lacks 16 feet of becoming a mountain

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1995) Based on a true story, as Ivor Monger told to his grandson Ifor David Monger, made into a film by director/screenwriter Christopher Monger. In South Wales, we're told, there's a shortage of surnames, such that an occupation or character description often became affixed to a person's name. This tale in part explains the long, enigmatic name of The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain and the hill he went up and the mountain he came down.

In 1917 into Plant Owain two Englishmen, cartographers with His Majesty's Ordinance Survey, arrived in their automobile to measure Ffynnon Garw, a mound separating South Wales from England, which the villagers proudly referred to as the first mountain of Wales. Accompanying his portly senior surveyor, George Garrad (Ian McNeice), the younger, more approachable and accommodating Reginald Anson (Hugh Grant) soon finds the village and its people charming, especially Betty (Tara Fitzgerald).

They explain their purpose is to measure Ffynnon Garw to determine its height and designation for inclusion on new maps: if it is over 1000 feet, it is a mountain, if under, a hill. The two surveyors take rooms in Morgan the Goat's inn and pub where bets are taken on what will be the official height. A pair of brothers, Thomas Twp and Thomas Twp Too, both farmers (who say they're not so twp as to not know they're twp), volunteer to carry the transit and equipment for Anson and Garrad.

With the measurement ascertained, Anson volunteers to reveal the news that Ffynnon Garw at 984 feet above sea level is a hill, which Anson hastily adds in no way detracts from its beauty or attraction. But the proud villagers see things differently in that while their brave young men have been away fighting the Germans, they've lost their mountain to the English.

Reverend Jones (Kenneth Griffith) calls for an emergency town meeting to petition the authorities, but Morgan (Colm Meaney) suggests instead that they add twenty feet to the peak: Do we call a short man a boy or a dog a cat? While Rev Jones and Morgan are not on cordial speaking terms - Morgan not only refuses to attend church services, he has a reputation as a philanderer (in a typical exchange Rev Jones asks him, "Have you no shame?" to which Morgan replies: "No, I can't think where I left it") - the clergyman seconds the motion, urging everyone to raise the hilltop by toil and sweat to a mountain summit: "Today we are building a mountain."

What use are maps, Morgan's asked; they're the undergarments of a country. Thus even the children in Davies the School's classroom are mustered into helping remove soil from below and haul it up the slope. Quiet Johnny Shellshocked (Ian Hart) joins in along with nearly everyone else digging dirt and trudging upward to deposit it around a flagpole, while Morgan exhorts his fellow citizens on, selling them food and beverages.

By nightfall they have piled on 14 additional feet of earth and need to detain the surveyors until they can complete the task for a second measurement, but calamity befalls in the form of a two-day deluge. On Sunday, God's day of rest, Rev Jones raises hopes once more, reading from Psalm 99:9, "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill."

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)