Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
JIM ROSS wants to take this insipid romance and just throw it back in the water.
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Don’t you just love a simple film with some good on screen chemistry? Aren’t you relaxed by watching a humorous and endearing film, which still alludes to the issues of the day? A film with solid acting from the main stars? A familiar tale that doesn’t slip into cliché? I like all these things as well and it sounds like an enjoyable film – sadly, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen has none of these qualities.
Director Lasse Hallström’s film, based on a Paul Torday novel, follows the travails of Ewan McGregor, a government fisheries expert, and Emily Blunt to bring the ‘sport’ of salmon fishing to the wadis of Yemen – a project which is the brainchild of Sheikh Muhammad. As the Sheikh’s personal assistant and assets manager, Emily Blunt is employed to solicit the expertise of McGregor. On her side is the Prime Minister’s Press Officer, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, who wants the project to succeed in order to have some good news coming out of the Middle East.
At least, I think Emily Blunt’s hilariously vague job can be described as such – Lasse Hallström is rather unconcerned with details in this film. He is far more eager to focus our attention on the insipid romance between Blunt and McGregor, which lacks enough chemistry to be watchable and is too implausible for us to care anyway.
McGregor’s stale marriage (ended by text message, really?) and Blunt’s MIA military boyfriend (of only 3 weeks) never feel like anything other than devices to provide the needed dramatic obstacles and are about as believable as McGregor’s accent (given it’s supposed to be his native one, that’s an impressive feat). The character of Sheikh Muhammad also gives rise to a particularly patronising and misplaced brand of exoticism. Throw in some heavy handed swim-against-the-tide and faith metaphors and you’ve got a film.
A wafer-thin subplot involves faceless Arab terrorists – so nondescript that you almost expect them to be running around shouting “Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad!” This plot strand is ultimately resolved by a moment where McGregor inexplicably uses his fishing rod with samurai-esque skill, a ridiculous moment which made me groan out loud.
Kristin Scott Thomas is the only character with energy, and gets most of the funny lines. Even then, she feels painfully out of place – as if copy-pasted in from a first draft of an Armando Iannucci script. Hallström presents us with some excellent visuals of the Yemeni landscape and Scott Thomas delivers a few genuine laughs, but the narrative focus of this film is all wrong.