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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Gentle & Sweet Romantic Comedy

  • Amr WakedEmily Blunt...
  • ComedyDrama...
  • Lasse HallstromLasse Hallström
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Gentle & Sweet Romantic Comedy
Lasse Hallstrom is a Swedish director who, during the 70’s and 80’s, kept busy by mainly directing music videos – mostly for Abba. His name also happens to be affiliated with films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, My Life as a Dog and The Cider House Rules – which earned the director some well-deserved award nominations.  It’s clear that the talented filmmaker is not only an excellent music-video director, but an exceptional storyteller as well.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, based on Paul Torday’s bestselling novel of the same name, unites Hallstrom and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire – to tell a story that is quirkily engaging, witty and a delight to watch.

When fishery expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor), is approached by the lovely Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt) – a PR girl who handles the UK based assets of wealthy Sheikh Muhammed (Waked) – for a salmon fishing project in the Yemen, Dr. Alfred is quick to dismiss the outrageous idea. He can’t imagine a project set in such poor climate conditions and sees dismisses the proposal as a crazy idea belonging to the Sheikh’s extravagant lifestyle.

In the meantime, the prime minister’s press office is scrambling for a piece of good Anglo-Arabian news that “isn’t to do with something exploding” for a change. However, when the chief press officer, Patricia Maxwell (Scott-Thomas) – a woman who knows what she wants and exactly how to get it – comes across the story, things begin to look a lot brighter.

With his marriage in the slums and after a fair bit of convincing done by both Harriet and the Sheikh, Dr. Jones finally gives in.  He leaves the drab halls of London for the warm open spaces of the Middle East and both him and Harriet go on to undertake the Sheikh’s money-is-no-object project of introducing salmon fishing to the Yemen shores.

The story is not just about the art of fly-fishing, political agendas and the vast Yemeni desert; it’s a gently told story of faith and hope. It starts off strong; the witty banter between the somewhat up-tight McGregor and the easy-going and irresistibly charming Blunt is enticing and the audience slowly gets reeled in.  The concept of building a dam in the Yemeni desert and flying the fish over from Northern Europe to swim upstream in the man-made river is definitely outlandish, yet somehow engaging.  Hallstrom’s focus is on the romantic thread and the other elements of the story merely fall into the background in comparison.

Despite its solid start, the film’s well intentioned emotional track eventually enters murky waters.  The subplot with Harriet and her boyfriend of three weeks is melodramatic and the Sheikh’s eternal enemies – who accuse him of importing Western values – seem a little far-fetched. 

Nevertheless, McGregor and the rest of the cast do manage to keep the film humming.  McGregor is endearing as he pours his heart into the role and there is no shortage to his underrated comedic talents. As always, Blunt is a joyous treat and Scott Thomas’ ferocious burst of energy and sarcasm is a scene-stealer.

one of Egypt’s most successful and sought after actors, finds himself in the robes of a wealthy
Sheikh whose fondness for fishing is merged with his steadfast faith. Waked
is sincere and manages to keep his character grounded despite his
lavish way of life.

Despite its fishy moments, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is gentle, sweet and a pleasure to watch.  

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In 2012, the film was nominated for the European Film Awards People's Choice Award and it is currently nominated for 3 Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture – in the Comedy or Musical category.  

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