MOVIE REVIEW: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

OK, first things first. If you haven’t seen or heard anything about this film, despite its title, it isn’t a real fishing movie unlike those usually reviewed at

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Directed by Lasse Hallström) is actually (gulp) a romantic comedy. But as nauseating as romcoms can be, a mainstream flick with fishing as its central plot is rare and surely worth a look? Anyway, that was my excuse for killing a couple of hours seeing the movie with my wife over Easter. The last popular mainstream movie with a fishing theme I could recall was the very watchable A River Runs Through it starring Brad Pitt in one of his early roles, and based on legendary American fishing writer Norman Maclean’s life.

Salmon Fishing’s plot basically revolves around a sheik’s dream of introducing salmon to his middle eastern homeland of Yemen. The sheik, played by Amr Waked, is a fanatical fly fisherman with a seemingly bottomless bank account and a vision for introducing something extraordinary to his country.

When the British government catches wind of the sheik’s plan they see it as an opportunity to promote UK/Yemeni relations – a chance for a badly needed good news story. The British PM’s no nonsense press secretary, played by a brilliant Kristin Scott Thomas, grabs the story with both hands. Enter skeptical Fisheries scientist Dr Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor). Jones sees the scheme as a joke and a total waste of his time. Even the sheik’s go between – with the stuffy name of Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (the gorgeous Emily Blunt) – has a hard time convincing Jones of the viability of the crazy plan, which apart from money is also largely relying upon faith to come to fruition. Once Jones though admits the dream is possible in theory, things start to fall in place.

From there the movie predictably veers off into romance (or lack of) territory as Jones experiences trouble on the homefront, and Harriet’s soldier boyfriend goes off to war in Afghanistan. Unfortunately for the sheik too, his grand plan goes awry when sourcing salmon for stocking becomes extremely difficult, and his Yemeni countrymen don’t share his vision. Without giving too much away, the scenes involving the salmon stocking are quite believable and well done – the fisherman in me wanted to see it work. And did it? You’ll have to see it to find out…

Overall I was surprised by how much I liked this movie, which had all the potential ingredients of a real stinker. It has some richly colourful salmon fishing scenes (spey fly casting!), has a subtle environmental message about the value of water and has many humourous moments, mostly involving Kristin Scott Thomas’s character and Jones’s bumbling boss in the Fisheries department played by Conleth Hill.

So if you’re heading off to the movies with your better half, this light hearted flick about fishing is sure to keep you awake until the credits roll – and if you’re not convinced, there’s also Emily Blunt…

RATING: 3/½ bent rods out of 5

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