Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Lasse Hallstrom, 12A, 112 mins
Lasse Hallstrom, director of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, is a known purveyor of schmaltz, from Chocolat (2000) to the dire Dear John (2009). The sickly-sweet moments in his most recent rom-com were to be expected, but his collaboration with screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, better known for Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, brings a refreshing tartness to the palate. The quips and one-liners that litter this film certainly echo that strain of British wit.
Based on Paul Torday’s novel, we follow Fred (Ewan McGregor), a fisheries expert and fishing anorak, and Harriet (Emily Blunt), an asset manager who involves him in a ridiculously far-fetched project to irrigate the Yemeni desert and introduce salmon fishing as a sport. Despite clear obstacles – “water,” McGregor intones in his smooth Scottish accent – a series of unfortunately believable disasters in Afghanistan leave Kristin Scott-Thomas’ Downing Street press secretary (the stand-out star of the piece) determined that Anglo-Arab relations gain a PR makeover.
It’s humour that saves this film. Scott-Thomas’ satirical streak had me laughing out loud in places, whereas the attempts at heavier material felt underexplored. There’s not enough uncertainty and grief when Blunt’s soldier boyfriend is missing in action, though the film does offer an impressively prickly, unpleasant depiction of McGregor’s unremarkable marriage gone stale. A fun soundtrack and kinetic, ultra-modern editing style keep it pacey, but fail to hide how skin-deep the film really is.
This incredibly charming and undemanding film is unlikely to stand the test of time, but as a break from revision it’s easy-going and enjoyable.