Can you think of another movie with a more pretentious title than ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’? By the name alone, you’d never guess that it’s standard, predictable romantic comedy, but that’s all it is. Any presumptions you might make about the film being artsy are wrong. This is a run-of-the-mill romance flick with a British flare.
When a British missile destroys a public marketplace in a Middle Eastern war zone, the Prime Minister’s press officer (Kristin Scott-Thomas) looks for the most distracting news story possible to divert media attention away from the deadly flub. What does she find? A billionaire sheikh is working with a prestigious London firm to make salmon fishing possible in the Yemen river. Wanting to make this a top news story, she pulls her powerful strings and makes Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), one of England’s foremost specialists on fish, collaborate with the firm’s dedicated project supervisor, Harriet Chetwood-Tolbert (Emily Blunt), on this “fundamentally unfeasible” idea.
The expected ensues. Alfred and Harriet form a close friendship – but, wouldn’t you know it, they’re both committed to other people. Alfred married young and his marriage is being tested. Harriet is waiting for a soldier whom she knew three weeks prior to being deployed to Afghanistan.
Although ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ unfolds by the numbers, it contains some very witty British banter. In this way, it exceeds, but the chemistry-less romance couldn’t be less engaging. Plus, it turns into a tonal mess during the two terrorist attacks. Yes, I’m being serious; there are two unfitting terrorist attacks in the movie. As if the first one wasn’t odd enough, the filmmakers threw in a second one, both of which would be better suited in the satire ‘Four Lions‘.
‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ isn’t terrible, but it’s just not great either. Some things work, while a lot of things don’t. The script is good, but not quite good enough to disguise its faults. If you’re dying for a rom-com this weekend, you’re better off staying home and revisiting a goodie.
‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ is the name of the book, authored by Paul Torday, who was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford.
It was his first novel, published at the age of 59. It was a satire, based on his love of fly fishing and geopolitics.
(His second novel, ‘The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce,’ is about a man who drinks himself to death.)
‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ was directed by Lasse Hallström, whose best known films include ‘Chocolat’ and ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.’
The screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, is a novel-adapter, who adapted ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ ‘127 Hours,’ and ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.’
Pretentiousness was inevitable.
Since this is my genre, and I have an Emily Blunt fetish, I’m interpreting your review as 4 Stars. This film as been on my Q since TIFF.