Review: Salmon Fishing in Yemen
PLOT: A fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor) is approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) whose client, a wealthy Sheik (Amr Waked)- is willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to bring Salmon Fishing to the Yemen.
REVIEW: SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN. Wow- what a mouthful, right? Certainly, in terms of quirky titles, this is one for the books- but if you can overlook the rather mad handle this is going out with, you’ll be rewarded with a pleasant, mostly charming romantic comedy that’s a lot more down-to-earth than the outlandish title and premise would have you believe.
Indeed, it took me a while to figure out that what I was watching actually was a rom-com, as it starts off more along the lines of something like IN THE LOOP. While the idea of someone bringing salmon fishing to the Yemen sounds completely insane, it’s quickly embraced by British Home Office’s chief PR flak- played bitingly by a surprisingly funny Kristin Scott Thomas. She hopes to use it as way to put a positive spin on British/ Middle Eastern relations, and to this end, she blackmails our hapless fisheries wiz hero- Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) into making sure the Sheik’s wild vision comes true. It doesn’t hurt that the Sheik happens to have a gorgeous consultant- Harriet (Emily Blunt) on his payroll.
The notion of a romance between her and McGregor’s character is downplayed at first, with her military boyfriend being MIA after a mission in Afghanistan gone wrong (a pretty serious twist for such an otherwise light film). Thus, for most of the running time, this is more of a low-key, LOCAL HERO-style fable about two driven professionals being encouraged by the optimistic Sheik to have faith that things will work out for the best, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
What really makes SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN works more than anything else are the performances by Blunt and McGregor. Both are exceedingly likable in the right parts and both are playing to their strengths here. For McGregor, this isn’t too much of a stretch from BEGINNERS, with him playing the same kind of closed off, emotionally distant type, who has to open up in order to find happiness. Blunt is the sunnier, more naturally optimistic half of the duo- and she’s extremely charismatic, and likable.
Of course, given the title, I think one would be reasonable to assume that a good chunck of time is spent figuring out the logistics of bringing Salmon Fishing to the Yemen. The trials and tribulations of McGregor and company are surprisingly interesting, and by the end, you’ll be rooting for the scheme to work- even if it does seem like a stretch.
All in all, I quite enjoyed SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN for what it was- a charming, slice of life, low-key rom-com. It’s a nice return to form for director Lasse Hallstrom, with it harkening back to the types of films he made during his hot streak with Miramax in the late-nineties (CIDER HOUSE RULES, CHOCOLAT). It’s a nice piece of counter-programming to the mega-budget JOHN CARTER- and would certainly make a good date movie. Heck, make the night complete and grab some Salmon after. I doubt it’ll come from the Yemen though…