Featured Article, MoviesBy Neil Pond on April 18, 2012
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Starring Ewan McGregor & Emily Blunt
Directed by Lasse Hallström
If you’ve ever felt misled, confused or ill informed by the title of a movie, here’s a film that’s about exactly what you think it’s about when you hear what it’s called.
This sweet-natured, British-flavored, laughter-sprinkled romance (based on the 2007 comic novel by English writer Paul Torday) hinges on a crazy-sounding project to bring salmon fishing, a cold-water sport, to the dry, dusty desert of Yemen, where a wealthy sheikh has deep pockets for the obsessive pastime he developed at his pastoral waterside retreat in Scotland.
Emily Blunt is Harriett, the chipper London investment representative in charge of managing the international assets of the wealthy potentate (Amr Waked). Ewan McGregor plays the flabbergasted fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones, charged with the seemingly impossible plan by his higher-ups in the British government, which has a vested interest in keeping the sheikh happy.
“You think I’m mad?” the sheikh asks Dr. Jones, then interrupts him before he can answer. “Of course you do. I would question your judgment if you did not.”
McGregor’s fishing expert and Blunt’s investment handler are attracted to each other…eventually. But there are complications. He’s married, settled but not particularly happy, and she’s in love with someone else, a handsome British soldier. Importing salmon to the desert, it turns out, isn’t the only obstacle their characters must confront.
Beyond romance, there are other threads to the movie’s charming weave of elements, which include a running subplot about the comedic bureaucracy behind the project. Kristin Scott Thomas brings spunk and spark to every moment she’s onscreen as the British prime minister’s workaholic press secretary, who doesn’t know a flipping thing about fish but pushes the salmon project to the tip-top of her priority list after she sees its potential to spawn some good-news headlines.
There’s also a plot to assassinate the sheikh, and some absolutely gorgeous on-location photography from Scotland and Morocco. Fishing becomes a metaphor for patience, tolerance and faith, and the movie presents the idea that life’s flow of natural, unquestioned instinct can sometimes be unexpectedly, wondrously interrupted by rewarding opportunities to swim upstream, against the current.
McGregor and Blunt bring a splash of freshness to the tired old “rom-com” convention, giving Alfred and Harriett believable personalities, depth and dimension, and an honest sense of how real people would really react under the circumstance in which their characters find themselves—especially when things take a mixed-emotions turn that leaves them, and viewers, wondering if they’ve been left high and dry.
Life, love, fishing, acts of instinct, bursts of impulse, leaps of faith. I can’t think of any other movie that’s ever tried to lure all those topics into one story. And I certainly can’t think of one that’s done a better job of making me believe the world would, indeed, be a better, happier, more peaceful place if we could all just stop what we’re doing every once in a while, find some water, throw out a line, have a little patience…and wait for a gentle tug.