Charming. We do not get to use that word often in film. Yet, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is just that–charming. An original, fresh approach to the romantic comedy formula. The narrative relies on an impossible dream that brings these characters together with a common goal–faith and fish (and science). 😀
Adapted from the novel, of the same name, by Paul Torday–the premise is far-fetched. A wealthy Yemeni sheikh wants to bring salmon fishing to the desert of his country by creating flowing rivers. It sounds crazy because it is, but the journey taken is memorable and lovely. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy does a fine job with the material. The dialogue is crisp, witty and sharp (and very British). I laughed out loud at very clever moments and was impressed by how intelligent it was. Addressing themes from politics–animal nature–and our own natures, the story is rich. Now, I have to place the novel on my to-read list to see if it is just as good.
Director Lasse Hallstrom tells a beautiful story–simply and honestly, with a touch of the mystical. (That is what he does–Chocolat and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape –two of my favorites–are some of his classics.) He allows the characters to evolve naturally and paces the story perfectly. It also helps that there is gorgeous cinematography by Terry Stacey, that enhances the experience.
Another plus is the perfect cast. Ewan McGregor is awesome, again. I always comment on his natural, easy talent because he never seems to be acting. I love him here. His character’s arch is gradual, subtle and poignant. Emily Blunt is wonderful, too–again. I enjoy her in every film she is a part of. I appreciated their chemistry–it felt real and you found yourself cheering for them.
Amr Waked is great as the Sheikh, but the scene-stealer is Kristin Scott Thomas‘ turn as the brash press director of the British Prime Minister. Thomas delivers her lines with confidence and sting. She is a power house, but is also having fun with this role. Loved it!
My only complaint is an awkward, adversarial militant sub-plot. It just felt out-of-place and unnecessary. I understand that it leads to certain major events, but it was not explored or focused on enough for it to have impact. So, it ends up feeling forced. Obviously, it does not ruin the picture and can be easily overlooked, but still is not needed. I also would have liked to see more time given to the country of Yemen and its people. It could have enriched the plot.
Bottom line? Ignore the odd title (although appropriate) and take a chance on Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. You will end up being charmed and enjoy the time you’ve spent in this universe.