Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012)


Director:  Lasse Hallstrom
Cast:  Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, & Amr Waked. 
Plot:  A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama / Romance

Awards:  Nom. for 3 Golden Globes - Best Picture (Comedy/Musical), Best Leading Actor, Best Leading Actress.
Runtime:  111min
Rating:  NC16 for some violence and sexual content, and brief language.


It is an idea as ridiculous as camel riding in the Arctic, but as Dr. Alfred Jones would point out, "it is theoretically possible".  Dr. Jones, by the way, is played by Ewan McGregor, whose eccentric yet likable central performance in this new film by Lasse Hallstrom is important to its success as a feel-good comedy-drama that comes with a requisite romance subplot, and a fresh premise that might just pique your interest.  Salmon fishing in the Yemen?  Now, that's a new one.

The title is not metaphorical; it is as plainly literal as it can be.  Dr. Jones, whose expertise in fisheries is tapped by Harriet (Emily Blunt), a consultant tasked to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert of Yemen.  

With the backing of the British government, this news would ideally bring forth a new level of closer Anglo-Yemeni ties, something that is badly needed as Western forces wage an unpopular war in Afghanistan.

The strength of Hallstrom's film is McGregor's astute interpretation of his character's quirks, developed skilfully by Oscar-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, 1997; Slumdog Millionaire, 2008).  

Quirks that come about from Dr. Jones' peculiar way of explaining things, and how he interacts and reacts to social situations.  The dialogue-driven comedy is unexpectedly funny, especially when delivered by someone with an awkward social persona, and apparently without a sense of humour like Dr. Jones.

While the chemistry between McGregor and Blunt remains serviceable to the film, it is Kristin Scott Thomas' scene-stealing supporting turn as a kick-ass close aide of Britain's Prime Minister that gives this seemingly low-key and saccharine film some punch. 

Hallstrom is no stranger to heartwarming films, having directed features such as Chocolat (2000), and Hachiko: A Dog's Story (2009). Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is no different.  The strong characterization of both McGregor and Thomas' characters, and an engaging script make the film a pleasant watch, and this is despite a cliché ending that may appear to be too convenient to fathom.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is about faith.  The faith of hope.  As a man of science, Dr. Jones has to consign his theoretical and statistical thoughts to a mental bin, and believe in the wonder of nature.  Shots of the 'Yemeni landscape' are filmed in Morocco, but wherever the location, they are still beautiful to look at. 

Do also look out for a running gag involving a short but utterly hilarious online chat between Thomas' character and the Prime Minister.  This is a decent film that works in a quiet, understated way, though with an ending that is too easy a way out for the talented duo Beaufoy and Hallstrom. 

Verdict:  Ewan McGregor's quirky, central performance helps this feel-good and unexpectedly hilarious film to ride over its cliché ending.


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