Salmon Fishing in the Yemen may sound like a boring documentary, but it’s actually a rather charming chick flick that will likely need strong word of mouth to expand its audience beyond the indie/art house crowd. So check it out and talk it up! Trust me, there’s a strong chance you’ll like it, even if you can’t find Yemen on a map or couldn’t care less about fly fishing or the migration patterns and ecological needs of salmon.
Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada) plays Harriet, a British public relations executive who is given carte blanche to help a wealthy sheik realize his dream of bringing salmon fishing to the desert. She turns to the UK’s leading fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) for help, but he finds the entire project completely absurd. So does the British government – until the Prime Minister’s press secretary (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) decides that the salmon project is just what the government needs to divert attention from another Middle East ‘project’ that isn’t going so well – the war in Afghanistan.
As the eccentric sheik eventually points out, the project isn’t just about fish. And neither is the movie. It’s about politics, diplomacy, cultural divides, and the hint of romance between the optimistic Harriet and the skeptical Dr. Jones.
The film has its flaws. The Sheik’s character (played by Amr Waked) is all over the place. One minute, he’s a cartoonish stereotype, and the next he’s a complex and sympathetic man on a mission – to bring peace, water, and lots of salmon to the people of Yemen.
But despite the occasional unevenness of character and tone, Salmon Fishing offers up a nice mix of drama, humor, sarcasm, cynicism, and inspiration. Hey, anything is possible – as long as you’ve got enough money, resources… and faith!
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen isn’t terribly deep or dark, which is probably why I liked it (and why I’m a Mainstream rather than an Arty Chick). It’s beautifully shot, well-acted, and well-paced (not too surprising, coming from the director of Chocolat and the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Slumdog Millionaire). And most important, it’ll leave you smiling – and perhaps wondering where Yemen is on the map. Look it up. I did.