Film Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Director: Lasse Hallström
Starring: Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristen Scott Thomas, Amr Waked
Based on Paul Torday’s novel of the same name, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen tells the story of Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), a fisheries expert who is brought in to aid a consultant (Emily Blunt) employed by a sheikh with a vision of introducing salmon fishing into the Yemen.
Produced by the British Film Council and BBC Films it is indeed, despite the Arabian influences, a very British film and a very BBC film – enjoyable to watch but uncontroversial to the core. The sheikh in question (played by Amr Waked, an alumni of Egyptian and Arabian cinema) represents a contradiction to the stereotypical Arabian billionaire (nodded to by Dr. Jones quip: “If your sheikh wants to pour his money down the drain, why doesn’t he buy a football team?”) and while this makes for an interesting character it sometimes feels a little unbelievable. After all, a man willing to spend millions introducing a sport peculiar to the lakes of Northern Britain into the deserts of the Yemen must have something a little more selfish in mind that enriching the local environment. On the whole, though, the story although it could be criticised for a lack of ambition or threat to its happy ending, is quirky enough to win over most critics. This is helped largely by some very British humour led most notably by the superb Kristen Scott Thomas, whose government PR lady is the standout performance. In fact, it is the bureaucracy who offer most of the laughs with the government, the media and bosses in general all prodded playfully by witty quips and some amusing characters.
Where the film suffers, then, is in its character development which, despite some comfortable performances by McGregor (whose native Scottish tones we get to hear for a change) and Blunt, is a victim of a predictable plot and an inevitable ending. While for the most part the film succeeds in being more than just a romantic story, the final half an hour or so just does not manage to evade the cheesy moments that pervade so many films. Romance can be, and is when presented properly, a really useful tool for a filmmaker. For example, the recent blockbuster The Hunger Games demonstrated that there is still a lot you can do with a boy and a girl, without using the same old formula of boy meets girl and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, the romantic elements – which may well suffer in translation from the original novel – are a little stale.
Nonetheless, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is as easy to watch as is shooting fish in a barrel. It’s an entertaining storyline that will reel you in and, while I wouldn’t rank it the catch of the day, it’s definitely worth taking the bait and giving it a watch (all fishing puns intended.)