Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011) / Drama-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some violence and sexual content, and brief language
Running time: 107 min.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Conleth Hill, Tom Mison, Rachael Stirling, Jill Baker
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy (based on the novel by Paul Torday)
In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau, The Wolfman) plays Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, a public relations consultant doing business with a Yemeni sheikh with a home in Scotland named Muhammed (Waked, Syriana). With more wealth than he knows what to do with, Sheikh Muhammed wants to bring a dream project to his front door, almost literally, by constructing a massive project to bring a man-made stream containing over 10,000 salmon to the Yemeni desert in order for him to pursue his passion for sport fishing.
It's a crazy idea, but Harriet is getting paid nonetheless, so she pursues the viability with a Scottish fisheries engineer named Dr. Fred Jones (McGregor, The Men Who Stare at Goats) , who also happens to be a passionate and skilled sport fisherman himself. Fred finds it a outrageously silly idea, and tosses out a sky-high number for the amount that the project would cost, but Muhammed seizes on it without hesitation.
Meanwhile, Patricia Maxwell (Thomas, The Other Boleyn Girl), an ambitious press secretary to the Prime Minister of Britain, wants to publicize the construction to promote relationships between Britain and Arab nations. As Harriet and Fred relocate to Yemen for the project, they begin to have feelings for one another, though things are complicated, as Fred is married and Harriet as she has pledged to wait for her fledgling boyfriend (Mison, One Day) who has been commissioned to fight in the war in Afghanistan.
Shallow characterizations mar this well-meaning, whimsical tale from director Lasse Hallstrom (Casanova, Chocolat) and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) , based on the 2007 novel by Paul Torday. However, as magically romantic as the story might be in book form, it doesn't translate well to this motion picture, as the strength of the romance isn't firmly established as anything other than a tenuous connection among thinly developed characters. Hallstrom's direction is fluid, but the tale proceeds at a bland and thoroughly predictable clip throughout.
Despite likeable and capable actors, the script, though witty, is a letdown, and nothing Hallstrom can do in the directorial department can elevate the tone from quirky to the truly fanciful, captivating romance he clearly is going for. Unfortunately, most of its efforts rub the wrong way, as plot contrivances pile up and take center stage as the characters become merely tools used in order to facilitate an ostensibly happy ending. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not suffering from a complete lack of charm, as there is an easy, breezy quality to it, but the heavier subtexts of industrial terrorism, attempts at assassination, and agonizing relationship problems crack the lightness's brittle facade.
©2013 Vince Leo