– Summary –
Director : Lasse Hallström
Year Of Release : 2012
Principal Cast : Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristen Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Tom Mison, Rachel Stirling, Hugh Simon, Conleth Hill,
Approx Running Time : 107 Minutes
Synopsis: When a Yemeni Sheik wants to establish a breed of English Salmon in the Yemen, an uptight English fish expert is given the task to make it happen.
What we think : Terrific human interest story with deft performances by the trio of leads – McGregor once again proves one of his generation’s most dependable actors, while Emily Blunt reaffirms her status as the best British actress of her age bracket today – all wrapped up in a cutesy little plot device that is as harmless as the title might indicate. It’s no blockbuster, but certainly worth a look.
UK Fisheries expert Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is seconded to assist a seemingly impossibly project for a Yemeni Sheik, Muhammed (Amr Waked); introducing salmon to the Republic’s dry desert by damming a river. When Fred finds the idea unfeasible, he tells the Sheik’s English consultant on the project, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), and thinks that’s the end of it. However, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Patricia Maxwell (Kristen Scott Thomas) decides to give the project the green light to counteract the bad news coming from the conflict in Afghanistan. Fred and Harriet embark on a journey of discovery and fishing, and as they grow closer the personal conflict between Fred and his career-minded wife, and Harriet and her missing-in-action soldier boyfriend-of-three-weeks, Robert, intensifies. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen isn’t a massive blockbuster – the title implies as much – but the careful, nuanced relationship drama within is as funny as it is moving. Directed by Lasse Hallström, the dude who gave us Johnny Depp in Chocolat, Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules and Heath Ledger in Casanova, Salmon Fishing is a steady character piece with terrific leading performances from both McGregor and Blunt. While the story might seem a little art-house, and I guess it is in many ways, the film’s startling look and classy production values up its must-watch factor significantly.
This kind of film doesn’t leap out at you from the shelf of the local rental, but you should do yourself a favor and check it out. I found myself laughing throughout; it’s not a comedy, really, but there’s plenty of wry humor mixed in with the moving human drama. McGregor does a solid job as the Aspberger’s afflicted Fred, his tics and nuances are sublime, and his delivery is impeccable. Blunt is equally razor sharp as Harriet, although her almost psychopathic attachment to her soldier boyfriend who goes missing in Afghanistan after their three week fling does stretch credibility just a little at times – she spends an awful lot of time wallowing in self pity, and although it’s obviously a plot point to allow her and Fred to get closer, I think this element of the story (at least as far as the film is concerned – this is all based on Paul Torday’s novel of the same name) is the weakest. Egyptian actor Amr Waked channels Omar Sharif as the film’s resident Arab Sheik, with the wife remarking about how handsome he is while we were watching it. Case closed on that, friends. Waked is given little to do aside from delivering typically cliched Middle Eastern dialogue about faith and belief against science, and it would have been nice to see him become more…. relaxed throughout the story, but as it is he’s good enough to make his limited role better than it probably should have been. Hallström directs the film across two continents, from London, to Scotland, and then to Yemen (actually Morocco… is it just me, or does Morocco seem to be the default shooting destination for “Generic Middle Eastern Country”??) and handles the nuances of the character dramatics really well. This is a softly spoken film, defined more by the characters within it than the events that transpire throughout. In the case of Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, it’s the journey, not the destination – and the journey is a fulfilling one indeed. I can thoroughly recommend this film for lovers of quality cinema.