Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is almost exactly what the title promises: intriguing, quirky, and gently absurd. But while delivering all of that, this film also delivers a truly entertaining and delightful love story.
Here’s a trailer:
Released in the USA (who knows??) but sometime in 2012
Written by Simon Beufoy, based on the novel by Paul Torday
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Starring Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ewan McGregor, and Amr Waked.
* * * * *
Harriet (Blunt) represents a rather visionary sheikh called Muhammed (Waked). This man is extremely wealthy and wishes to do some salmon fly fishing in the Yemen river. You know the river– the one in the middle of the desert. She contacts Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor), who is the UK’s leading expert on fishing, and tells Fred about the sheikh’s vision.
Fred dismisses the idea as patently ludicrous. But the UK Prime Minister’s chief publicity offer, Patricia Maxwell (Thomas), sees the potentially joint project between Saudi Arabia and the UK as a great PR thing, so she pushes the project forward.
Now Fred and Harriet are working together in the middle of the desert, trying to bring the phenomenally wealthy’s vision to pass. But they’re also bringing something else to pass: a warm friendship that becomes something very lovely.
While the premise of the film, and the way the absurd idea is brought to pass, are completely nuts, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an extraordinarily delightful movie. This is because the movie uses the absurd premise as a canvas on which to paint a story about three people who need to save each other. The sheikh is a man of great faith and vision, who needs to learn about what leadership really means. Harriet is a woman of great authentic love for life who needs to learn to see what is truly happening around her. Fred is the most flawed of the crew; he needs to find out what it means to see beyond his world and make decisions for himself.
With writing that doesn’t shortchange some very serious topics and that allows the characters opportunities to make mistakes, there’s very little to not love. The direction allows scenes to have a beginning, a middle, and an end– and it’s rare that the end of each scene doesn’t deliver something of a surprise. The love story is also a story of not exactly religious faith and the story of people who find that they are the authors of their destiny and happiness.
What might surprise you is just how unbelievably perfect Ewan McGregor is in his role. Fred is standoffish, dismissive, and abrasive from the get-go. But you don’t hate him, because you see his behavior stems from something deep inside Fred that fears much of what he doesn’t understand or hasn’t experienced. What won’t surprise you is that Emily Blunt delivers a lively, intelligent, deep performance as Harriet. These two headliners have a moving chemistry, and the film’s pace doesn’t rob the budding relationship at all, allowing a great sweetness to fill the space between these two.
Amr Waked is also truly great in his role as the visionary, wise sheikh. He’s not a caricature at all; he lives in a different world that is provided to him by his wealth, but he has not let his money ruin him. His vision is not selfish, either. He wants to bring peace and prosperity to the area where he wishes to fish.
This is a smart, tender, very funny movie. It’s not for everyone, but those who enjoy it will love it.
Content warnings: a little language, some brief violence
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
Why don’t you spread the salmon that is this review to your social network rivers, eh?
As always, did you like this movie? Why or why not? And how lovely can Emily Blunt possible get, anyway?