“SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN” (Ewan McGregor & Emily Blunt)
Not exactly an intriguing title, is it? Sounds like a cross between ‘Moneyball’ and ‘Jeff, Who Lives At Home’ two boring titles where the former was as boring as it looked and the latter was quite enjoyable – ‘Salmon Fishing’ falls in between those two (though closer to ‘Jeff’ because it was a nice little film)
Emily Blunt plays Harriet Chatsworth-Talbot. I remember this because Ewan McGregor’s character (Dr. Alfred ‘Fred’ Jones) calls her Ms. Chatsworth-Talbot about 80 times throughout the movie. I won’t do that here – I’ll refer to her as Harriet.
Harriet has a job that somehow includes her assisting a Prince from Yemen (Amr Waked as ‘The Sheik’) The Sheik wishes to bring the religious aspect of salmon fishing to his community. He has spent millions building a dam to assure there will be water for the salmon year round and contributes another 50 million to Dr. Jones when the fishing expert throws that number out sarcastically when Ms. Chatsworth-Talbot asks how much he would need to bring the project to its fruition.
So yes, the basic idea of this film is about an eccentric Arabian prince that frivolously spends a fortune on a cockamamie plan that has little hope for success - And all to stand waist deep in a river with a fishing rod in his hand for endless hours.
The project gets spearheaded by the British government when a military snafu leads Parliament PR person Patricia Maxwell (Kristen Scott-Thomas) to look for a gesture of goodwill toward the people of Yemen and happens upon the salmon project on the internet.
But despite that rather dull sounding concept, ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen’ works because of the interaction of the three basic characters (Harriet, Alfred & The Sheik) and a pleasant mix of side characters that stay interesting enough to keep the silly storyline afloat.
This is a good character study, with only one flaw – Harriet’s devastation of learning that the ‘boyfriend’ she’d known for three weeks was M.I.A. in Afghanistan. Okay, so you meet and go out on a date – that’s week one. You meet for a couple of meals and have sex for the first time during week two and you start to feel comfortable around one another during week three and then he gets deployed. You hardly know the guy, let alone feel that the love of your life has been ripped from your bosom.
The problem is how the news of his being ‘missing’ makes Harriet completely fall apart. She leaves Yemen and the project that has engulfed her life with a purpose simply because some dude she’s known for 3 weeks is M. I. A. ?
Meanwhile, married Dr. Jones becomes involved with the project he deems a hopeless waste of time and money because he's told he'll lose his job if he doesn't participate and his wife’s job sends her to Geneva for several weeks.
It isn’t difficult to tell that Alfred is becoming enraptured with the pretty and personable Ms. Chatsworth-Talbot but he finds himself in the dilemma of wanting to express his feeling toward her without looking like a greasy scumbag that just wants to take advantage of her vulnerability as she emotionally crumbles before his eyes while waiting to hear if the guy she’s known for three weeks is alive or dead.
There is also the added dimension of how the Sheik’s people react to his eccentric expenditures and what most would call a foolish dream.
So don’t let the anemic title keep you from checking this film out – if you like original stories that have an offbeat theme with interesting characters that are well acted, you’ll enjoy “Salmon Fishing...” and you might actually find yourself unexpectedly cheering for a mob of 10,000 salmon to swim upstream. It sure shocked the heck out of me when I found myself caring whether they did or not!