"Perhaps it would have been different had there been no war. But this was 1917 - and people were exhausted by loss."
So the tale of a small Welsh village is told thru the voice of the last living participant to The Day Ffynnon Garw Built A Mountain.
A result of the newly invented airplane entering the battlefield, and by order of his Majesty, a nationwide geographical survey is undertaken. Two-man survey teams are sent out across the land to accurately map the significant features - mountains, hills and valleys.
One particular team has been tasked with western England.
Way off the beaten track, a rural village lay in the shadow of Mount Ffynnon Garw, the so-called First Mountain Of Wales. A quiet little hamlet whose townsfolk are made up of the ubiquitous mix of funny, sympathetic, and quirky peoples. Country folk for whom hard work is the Lord's work.
Understandably curious about the official Crown Survey, lively debate surrounds how big their mountain actually is; congregating at the town pub to discuss the matter, laughter and good cheer abound.
Supremely confidant "the English" will find nothing untoward and will quickly move on - the news they deliver comes as shock. The surveyors make the terrible pronouncement that their mountain, their singular claim to Welsh pride, the stone embodiment of their combined hearts and souls - is technically a hill. Their calculations are accurate. At 884 feet, short by sixteen feet, their mountain - isn't. And once recorded into the national charts it will be forever known as Ffynnon Garw Hill.
One couldn't have done worse to the already decimated people had they dropped a bomb directly into the center of the village. Already emotionally and physically devastated from supporting the war effort and the omnipresent life-devouring coal mine - the people will brook no further wounds. Especially from two Englishmen.
Determined to reclaim their 1,000 foot "mountain" status, the residents embark on a massive collective effort to close the 20 foot gap - by building upon Ffynnon Garw's summit with freshly tilled earth, back-breaking sweat, and even tears. Johnny Shellshock, broken survivor of the French trenches, whose battlefield experiences have left him mute, speaks for the first time in over a year to enjoin his fellows to take on the challenge.
The quest becomes a race as the townsfolk have to devise various ploys to prevent the cartographers from leaving before they can bridge the shortfall. Suddenly, the team's automobile breaks down; the broken part cannot be secured for several days. The cheapskate pub proprietor suddenly supplies them with an unending stream of alcohol. And even a comely maiden is secured to entice the handsome Mr. Anson; the young veteran who begins to sense, unlike his drunken disinterested partner, the magnitude surrounding their seemingly simple task.
A wonderful light comedy with Hugh Grant at his dry best. Kudos to Colm Meaney who, despite a faltering accent, was enjoyable as the pub proprietor and town "father".
- As pointed out at the beginning of the film, given the few family surnames in their village, sharing a name is both commonplace and confusing. To address that situation, one is given a nickname usually associated with one's profession or significant personality trait. So John Evans might be Evans The Butcher or Evans The Clerk, and so on.
Also explaining how one resident was given the longest name in Ffnnon Garw history: The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill, But Came Down A Mountain.
- I would be remiss and cursed if I did not highlight the *amazing* performance of late UK actor Kenneth Griffith. A potent delivery of character as Ffnnon Garw's guiding pastor, Reverend Jones. Genuinely hilarious as the overseer and protector of the town's collective soul, and the character who first foresees the horror that will befall the village should their mountain be downgraded.