Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Directed by Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules and Chocolat), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a tender-hearted comedy that tells the unlikely story of Dr Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), a fisheries scientist, who finds himself unwillingly enlisted on a bizarre project to introduce the sport of fly-fishing to the Middle East.
Adapted from the award-winning novel by Paul Torday, with a screenplay written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen endeavours to bring this satirical tale leaping off the page. Although not quite conveying the same wit and irony found in Torday’s comic fiction, the film is still an enjoyable exploration of hope against all the odds.
The offbeat plot makes refreshing viewing. Dr Jones is a serious and unassuming man who works at the Department of Fisheries and Agriculture in London. An expert in his field, currently researching the caddisfly, his comfortable career is interrupted by an absurd request. Acting on behalf of the exceptionally wealthy Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked), Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) asks Dr Jones to help realise her client’s seemingly impossible dream of introducing salmon fishing to a desert region. As the private endeavour of an enthusiastic angler, unlimited amounts of money are to be thrown around to overcome any and all obstacles.
Grabbing onto the story as a piece of good news from the Middle East, to distract from the less favourable headlines, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) of the Prime Minister’s office detects a PR opportunity. She forcefully uses her influence to see to it that the extraordinary venture is given the go-ahead, by spinning the initiative into a symbol of positive Anglo-Yemeni relations. Initially derisive of the scheme, civil servant Dr Jones is quickly pressured by his irritating boss into either accepting the job or finding another one.
The drive and humour in the film comes primarily from Kristin Scott Thomas’s wonderful performance as an aggressively demanding government spokesperson; always looking for the desirable spin that she thinks will secure more voters and support for her party, she paints a scathing but hilarious view of British politics.
The romantic element of the story is subtly performed by Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. Whilst Harriet and Alfred are both already in relationships, the future of their relationships is in question. Alfred’s marriage with his career-driven wife has reached a stalemate and circumstances have separated Harriet from her new boyfriend Captain Robert Mayers. Harriet and Alfred find themselves drawn together by the enigmatic sheikh’s visionary plan, which is as much about faith as it is about fishing.
However, Harriet has more chemistry and passion with her military boyfriend than with Alfred. The scientist and the sheik’s representative instead have an amiable, gently developed relationship. Referring to each other as Ms Chetwode-Talbot and Dr Jones throughout, in order to remain professional colleagues, this is an understated and very British sort of romance.
The Scottish backdrop is one of the most scenic and beautiful of the film’s locations. Here, the spiritual Sheikh Muhammed first fishes with the sensible Alfred Jones, with the Sheikh in traditional robes and Alfred in waders. To see such different individuals standing in a Scottish river together, united in their task of fishing, audiences begin to believe the Sheikh’s idea that somehow this calming sport can bring all sorts of people together. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is ultimately a slightly quirky and uplifting film to indulge in.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen will be released in UK cinemas on 20th April 2012.
Watch the Salmon Fishing in the Yemen trailer here