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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Released 20 April 2012
Director Lasse Hallstrom

Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas
Writer(s) Simon Beaufoy
Producer(s) Paul Webster
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 110 minutes
Genre Comedy, drama, romance
Rating 12A


As oxymorons go, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen surely takes the bait. And yet, that is precisely what the entire film is about. Based on the popular 2007 British novel by Paul Torday and directed by none other than Swedish supernova Lasse Hallstrom, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a harmless tale of a visionary Sheikh who wishes to take the sport of fishing to the desert.

Widely considered the leading expert in fishing, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) spends much of his time muddling over papers in his grey prefabricated office. The dull monotony of his life changes the day that he is contacted by one Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), a jovial and professional consultant acting on the behalf of a wealthy Yemeni Sheikh who wishes to discuss the possibility of bringing salmon fishing to his country. Privately unhappy after a prolonged bout of marital discord, Alfred initially rejects the scheme as a highly implausible venture and doomed to fail. However enthusiasm and the Sheikh's wealth know no bounds and when government press secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) gets wind of the story she endorses it as a 'good will' tale badly needed in a time of dismal PR. Thus Alfred, Harriet and Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) have no further choice but to embark on a project that will change the course of their lives forever.

Hallstrom has the extraordinary ability to turn even the most meagre of subjects into something akin to a fairytale. The idea of fishing to many (indeed possibly the majority) probably fails to elicit much of a response and yet putting it in a 'Hollywood' title, with bright lights and a hefty budget, surely screams 'masochist'. However Salmon Fishing in the Yemen does indeed make the sport seem that little bit more appealing. The sheer unadulterated solitude, the hours of contemplation spent waiting for the slimy suckers to swim your way whilst you patiently slouch in your waders, is desirous in the fast-paced world of today. Indeed the juxtaposition of Sheikh Muhammed in all his exotic glory against the murky and beautiful backdrop of Scotland is captured perfectly. It is a pity then that such promising moments are completely spoiled by the abundance of utter rubbish that pervades this movie. McGregor's natural screen charisma is inevident and his middle-aged take on Alfred and his perfunctory sexual couplings with his stern wife Mary (Rachael Stirling) is really rather grating. Blunt fares rather better although her character is little more than a corporate cheerleader willing Alfred and the Sheikh to succeed while she cartwheels on the sidelines. There are certainly some entertaining moments-Kristin S. Thomas evidently relished the chance to take on the silly, chain-smoking hack with a nose for a good photo-op-but Salmon Fishing in the Yemen never really generates the necessary momentum that will have viewers agog until the final credits roll.

- Louisa McElwee