Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristen Scott Thomas, Amr Waked Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: March 9, 2012
PLOT: A fisheries expert (McGregor) is hired by a consultant (Blunt) to help a sheikh (Waked) realize his dream of being able to fish for salmon in the desert.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Like your romances light and international? And maybe with a few dashes of human spirit sprinkled throughout? This unique dish could be a nice treat for your taste.
EXPECTATIONS: Before sitting down for this one having barely remembered a preview, I can absolutely admit that the title created some large skepticism; was the name of this movie meant to be a marketing prank? Or perhaps, a test for publicists? At the same time, I was curious as to whether the charismatic McGregor and Blunt could somehow pull this one off. And in general, perhaps a movie titled Salmon Fishing in the Yemen wouldn't be as blandly silly as it might seem?
Ewan McGregor as Dr. Alfred Jones: As a man highly devoted to fish, bugs, and many other little creatures, McGregor is a quirky delight here with a contagious sense of humor to boot. His character is naturally funny, with his taste for bad jokes and snark. We never fully understand what he's talking about as he babbles on about very particular creatures, but it's never annoying. In this story of dedication, one with a vulnerable center, McGregor knows how to make it charming. Score: 7
Emily Blunt as Harriet: Like her male co-star, Blunt is a focused professional who is thrown into a unique romantic dilemma, this one involving her worrying about soldier boyfriend Robert (Tom Mison). Throughout her character's stiff ups and sad-filled downs, she doesn't lose our attention as a motivated character that we can't help but like. Score: 7
Kristen Scott Thomas as Patricia Maxwell: She adds crowd-pleasing bite to this sweet story as the British prime minister's press secretary. Scott Thomas' character is the one who pulls the strings of this wild premise with her fist, and the script loves her for that. Though she does have purpose in pushing the story along, Scott Thomas is used for many of the movie's comedic breaks, which often involve her abrasively bullying men of power in order to maintain her country's strong image. For some, she is bound to feel like a giddy scene stealer. Score: 6
Amr Waked as Sheikh Muhammed: While the slowly developing science of the movie has us believing in the physical possibility of a wild concept, Waked's character has us consider the spiritual significance. In a couple of chatty scenes he might sound a tad full of his wisdom, but Waked keeps him grounded as a genuine character, with a real passion for making the impossible possible. Score: 6
TALKING: The film's more romantic dialogue is always charming, never cheesy. Even when McGregor is making his snarky remarks, the dialogue feels like it's coming from an organic character, which is something that can't be claimed by many scripts that sound like screenwriters testing their wit through their characters. Score: 7
SIGHTS: Though the story opens many windows for Hallmark poetry shots, it only takes the bait once (for an "upstream" overhead of McGregor running against the crowds). Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is more concerned with presenting the scope of its premise than the poetic potential. With some of its rich wide shots, the film shows a preference for its naturally beautiful landscapes. At the same time, Salmon Fishing is highly amused with modern technology and architecture, never hesitating to make light out of government officials chatting over instant messenger, or the presence of goofy uncomfortable chairs in swanky buildings. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The score reaches no heights by itself, lacking a memorable motif or having emotional impact. Yet, it's the special instruments that are used in the Salmon Fishing in the Yemen score, especially the reoccurring classical guitar. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: Maybe something was in the water, but when Blunt shyly asks McGregor, "Do you need an assistant?" towards the end, I could feel my inner-romantic heavily swooning. Of course, I had been buttered up by the ups and downs from the film's previous events.
ENDING: Some might find it to be a little corny or hunky dory, but it's a nice resolve to an exhaustive premise. These final moments (which I suppose should be expected) test the saccharine waters of this movie. That being said, I bought it this time.
QUESTIONS: Were there any earlier versions of this movie's casting? Who could have pulled this one off like McGregor and Blunt? And of course, was the movie itself a hard sell, just as the film's center salmon concept?
REWATCHABILITY: There isn't anything that demands an immediate re-viewing of this movie, but it's so light and good-spirited that a second viewing doesn't sound unproductive in the least. Plus, who wouldn't want to look at McGregor and Blunt together for a second time?
This is a light romance that works because of its actors. Were McGregor and Blunt not so capable of making their hardworking characters so endearing, this would be a forgettable piece of whimsy, especially with its ridiculous concept. But the important aspect of the swift moving Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is that it sells you on its title scenario, and of the strange relationship that blooms between two stiffs. It even convinces you that maybe this dry movie title does have some vibrancy after all.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10