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A FISHY STORY
2:47pm Friday 20th April 2012 in Film Reviews
by Stephen Webb
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (12A)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Rachael Stirling.
Director: Lasse Halstrom
GO on, how many films can you name about fishing? Let’s face it, it’s not the most cinematic of subjects – although movies such as Moby Dick and The Perfect Storm gave it a good go, with different degrees of success.
Then there was Robert Redford’s 1992 drama A River Runs Through It, a sedate, picturesque tale which had fly fishing as a major focus.
And Jaws was a fishing movie of sorts.
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is unlikely to have enthusiastic anglers all of a-flutter – nor indeed those less passionate with the sport. Although it does have its moments.
Sheikh Muhammad (Amr Waked) has an impossible dream – the wealthy Arab is passionate about salmon fishing, and wants to introduce the sport to the Middle East.
Of course, there are major environmental differences between the glens and valleys of Scotland, where the pastime is most popular, and the Yemeni desert, where water and its scaly inhabitants are scarce.
That doesn’t deter the Skeikh, however, and he enlists the help of consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) to get on the case. She in turn seeks the assistance of Dr Alfred Jones, a Government scientist and angling expert who knows all there is to know about salmon fishing – and he knows it can’t be done in the Middle East.
For Harriet, what should have been a challenging yet straightforward PR exercise becomes a battle of wills with the boffin.
But Alfred doesn’t reckon on the persuasive charms of Harriet and the Sheikh – or the machinations of the Prime Minister’s press secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), who seizes on the opportunity to improve international relations and “big up” a “good news” story to put her boss – and, of course, the country – in a favourable light.
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen strives to be a pleasant, feelgood movie, and there is a quaint charm about it’s unlikely subject matter.
But the tone is uneven, with the predominantly lightness of touch clashing somewhat with weightier matters – Alfred’s troubled marriage is glossed over as he becomes attracted to Harriet, who is herself in a relationship with a soldier who is serving in... the Middle East.
So as this drama builds and plays out, the quest to fill a Yemeni river with salmon becomes a side issue – which is actually a pity, because that part of the story had comedic possibilities that could have held comparison with the eccentric output of the Ealing studios.
Blunt performs well enough as an emotionally confused career woman, but McGregor is less convincing in a role that was always going to struggle to be attractive to the audience.
The day is saved by Scott Thomas, who peps things up considerably with her fruity language and domineering personality.
If you’re after a slice of undemanding, romantic fluff, then Salmon Fishing In The Yemen will have you hooked.
And at least it’s another movie to add to the short list of fishing films. 6/10