Film Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Salmon Fishing in Yemen, directed by Lasse Hallström, has just been released in cinemas. Filmophilia took a rare Saturday night off (might be a slight exaggeration) from writing to watch and review the film.
Ewan McGregor plays Dr Alfred Jones, a fishery expert. He is employed by a company which Emily Blunt’s character, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, works for to figure out how to introduce salmon fishing into the dry desert of Yemen. She, in return, is employed by a wealthy Yemeni sheikh, Muhammad, played by Amr Waked. Kristin Scott Thomas plays another big character in the film, Patricia Maxwell, the prime minister’s press secretary.
Dr ‘Fred’ Jones is an awkward shy man who is stuck in a life he realises pretty early on in the film, he doesn’t like. He married his wife, who is very controlling, when they were very young.
Harriet Chetwode-Talbot is a young career woman who is just starting to go out with a military man Robert Mayers (Tom Mison). Pretty soon into the relationship he is deployed out to Afghanistan where he is fairly quickly presumed dead.
Sheikh Muhammad is a wholly likable character, whose visions aren’t only to give him the possibility of salmon fishing in Yemen but also to make the lives of the people in the region better.
Then there is Patricia Maxwell – who is not very likable. She’s the kind of woman who does everything to get the good story and the great photo opportunity, without any consideration of who she hurts and manipulates.
And to be quite fair, the premise of the film is pretty ridiculous. If salmon fishing isn’t something you are passionate about, it is hard to care about the main plot.
The story itself is a pretty straight forward love story. It is pretty clear from the get-go that Fred will fall in love with the likable Harriet. It is also pretty clear early on that the relationship with the military man won’t work out.
The film is entertaining, you believe the fumbling and search for love in Fred’s and Harriet’s eyes. But there are things in between that make no sense.
Patricia’s overzealous search for happy news from the Middle East that don’t involve the military in any way, makes her look cartoonish. She is a married mother of 3 but seems to take more pride in her work than in the rest of her life. Of course there is nothing wrong with a career-driven woman, not at all. But her nonchalance towards everything except getting that story makes her an unsympathetic character.
Then there are the comical terrorists who do not want Sheikh Muhammad to be able to fish in Yemen and send an assassin all the way to Scotland to try and kill him. A few other scenes in the film involve the terrorists but it seems like they were only included in the storyline to try and create some sort of weird suspense that shouldn’t even be in a lovely romantic comedy.
The love story itself goes by the typical rom-com formula. Guy meets girl. Guy falls in love with girl. Girl slowly realises she loves guy as well. Something happens which makes guy lose girl. Guy and girl end up together.
There are some lovely scenery shots in the film, both in Scotland and in Yemen. There are also quite a few lovely metaphors regarding salmon in the film (like when Fred decides to go against the stream and defy all odds by agreeing to this ridiculous project).
The film was disappointing. Apart from being a lovely rom-com, there is too much wrong for it to really work. It is obviously a rom-com but with the cartoonish press secretary and almost comedic terrorists, it’s almost like the film doesn’t know what it is. And there is an odd montage in the middle of the film when they finally get to Yemen – one of the sheikhs servants is recording the group on his iPhone, and it looks like a weird travel agency advert recorded on a portable home-camera. There was no need for that.
Apart from all the off-putting things, it is still enjoyable. Mostly thanks to McGregor’s and Waked’s superb acting and likable characters. But for some weird reason, it sometimes sounded like McGregor was faking the Scottish accent.
Final Verdict: This is a film that could’ve been so much better. There is whisper of a promise there that the film will be a brilliant rom-com, if only for McGregor’s fumbling character. But it falls a bit flat with odd character choices, which borderline on the clichéd (or even simply fall smack down in the middle of the line) and sometimes sloppy editing. If you can disregard those things and forget yourself in the sceneries and clumsy love story that seems almost impossible in the midst of salmon fishing, you will enjoy the film. But you don’t have to go to the cinema to see it – wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray.