Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Tom Beard, Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules)
There is nothing more romantic than love defying all logic and odds in order to flourish. That is the theme of many romances, but Salmon Fishing in the Yemen sets the bait very astutely. The entire film seems to ebb and flow like a stream, and it doesn't take long for the hook to catch.
Yemen is a country located south of Saudi Arabia, and the waters off of the coast host the exact opposite conditions needed for salmon to thrive. This doesn't stop a wealthy Sheikh (Amr Waked) from wanting to populate the Yemen waters with salmon to support his passion to fish them for sport. He is willing to pay an outrageous sum in order to make it happen. He assigns his real estate representative, Harriet (Emily Blunt), to look into making this absurd idea a reality. Harriet approaches a British fisheries scientist, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), for professional guidance on how something like this can be done.
This of course, is an outlandish request. Salmon in the desert?
As Dr. Jones and Harriet work together, the words "theoretically possible" continue to come up. In theory, if everything lined up perfectly, the good doctor muses that salmon could actually survive the warmer conditions. Those are the only words necessary in a romance movie, to know that there is a chance.
The great thing about this film is that it is more than a romance. It is a classic old-fashioned romance movie that has a lot of heart as well as a lot of laughs. McGregor and Blunt have great chemistry - a must for the genre - and the bit characters all bring their own flavor to the forefront. Of these, Kristin Scott Thomas is deliciously funny as the British Prime Minister's Press Secretary, assigned to give the Brits a much-needed "feel good" story from the Middle East.
At a steady pace, the film mixes in the hopes and dreams of faith with those of science, and keeps things light and bubbly all the while. It's the sort of film that leaves you grinning throughout.
The metaphors between the fish and us humans are thinly veiled. Some salmon, we discover, are fat and bloated and don't have the will power to swim upstream - a necessary part of salmon fishing. Most fish swim in school, but others realize that they are headed in the wrong direction.
Visually, these metaphors are given to us quite literally, with shots of flowing water, schools of fish, and schools of people shown swimming up and down stream. The entire movie feels like a refreshing ride down a relaxing river.
There are developments that look to rattle the faith of the men and women committed to realizing the sheikh's dream. Ultimately, faith is what carries us through. As fishermen know as well, it is faith that instills the patience required to wait out a big catch.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a satisfying and simple film that harkens back to films of the 50s and 60s, where predictability wasn't so important as long as the ride was worth it. I couldn't imagine anyone who would find this film less than enjoyable, but I guess it is theoretically possible.
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