Salmon fishing in the Yemen? A country not exactly known for its bountiful water – that sounds like a ridiculous idea. See how the idea plays out in our review of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen after the jump.
Fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is approached by Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) about the possibility of introducing salmon to the Yemen. Harriet represents the financial interests of a very wealthy Sheikh (Amr Waked), who is somewhat of a dreamer and a visionary. He dreams of fishing for salmon in his homeland, and of introducing much-needed water into the area. While Dr. Jones initially scoffs at the idea, he is soon forced into the project by his boss who has been told by the Prime Minister’s Office that they desperately need a positive Anglo-Arab relationship news story.
Dr. Jones starts off treating the whole thing as a bit of a joke (see above!); but after working on the project half-heartedly for a while he starts to come around, and dares to have faith that the project may not be a complete joke after all. From here the film follows the not only project through it’s up and downs, but also the ups and downs of the character’s personal lives.
If you have seen the trailer for this film, then you can pretty much guess how it will play out. For the most part it follows a pretty standard formula, and for the most part that is completely fine. The idea of salmon fishing in the Yemen is such a bizarre idea, that it’s actually really interesting to see how they go about trying to make this work. Unfortunately the film has several sub-stories which are quite pointless and add excess runtime to the film. Harriet’s relationship in particular is little more than forced plot points, that do absolutely nothing to aid the story.
The relationship between the three key players (Dr. Jones, Harriet, and the Sheikh) is surprisingly genuine and the interactions between them have a lot heart. While the Sheikh is slightly too sweet, you can’t help but support him and hope for a positive outcome. He truly believes in the whole seemingly impossible project. The relationship between Dr. Jones and Harriet is an example of a great relationship on film. It feels very real and is for the most part not forced or overdone. McGregor and Blunt have good chemistry, and the scenes involving the two of them are very engaging.
The great casting and excellent performances are the stand-out feature in this film. All three key players are wonderfully cast and fully embody their characters. McGregor is particularly good as the fisheries expert, and it is a delight to watch his character grow from a reasonably meek and “safe” person, to someone who is willing to take risks and have faith in the impossible. Tom Mison is also very funny as Dr Jones’s fed-up government employee boss, Robert. Kristin Scott Thomas has some great one-liners as the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, however her character is rather over the top and gets a little bit irritating come the end of the film.
Oh – the end of the film…. sadly the final act of this film is what lets it down. The film does a brilliant job of cultivating real emotional connections between the characters, and creates a great story – and then in the end it tarnishes all of that by tying things up in such a contrived way. It felt hollow and lacked any of the real heart that the first 2/3 of the film had in large measures. The film’s need to draw out the unneeded sub-stories only added to the manufactured conclusion of what is for the most part a very enjoyable film.
Overall, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an enjoyable film with a lot of heart. It has great characters and a really engaging story. Sadly the sub-stories and the contrived ending take the shine off what is an otherwise lovely film.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer(s): Simon Beaufoy (screenplay) & Paul Torday (novel)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas
Runtime: 107 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: April 5th 2012; New Zealand: May 17th 2012; USA: March 9th 2012.