Movie Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
Ewan McGregor has to be one of the most versatile actors in modern films. He proved his dramatic chops in "Trainspotting" and "Black Hawk Down," his musical abilities in "Moulin Rouge," and his action skills in the "Star Wars" series. But until now, he hasn't been known for romantic comedies, partly because of the ill-conceived "Down With Love," co-starring Renée Zellweger.
That's about to change with the debut of "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," as McGregor plays Alfred Jones, a charming, quirky fish expert who is asked to do the seemingly impossible — introduce salmon to the high country of the mostly arid Yemen.
The idea comes from a wealthy sheik (Amr Waked), who has a passion for fishing and is a frequent visitor to Scotland. He thinks that fishing will promote peace in Yemen. And his personal representative, Harriet (Emily Blunt), seeks to make his dream come true.
McGregor's Jones, as you might expect, scoffs at the whole idea because salmon require far lower temperatures than those in the Yemen. But as Britain's leading fisheries expert, Harriet believes that his help will be required if the project is to be successful.
Then the British government becomes involved. Suffering several political setbacks in relations with Middle Eastern countries, the prime minister's press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) decides that the project will be good publicity, and she pressures Jones to work with Harriet.
Bringing salmon to the Yemen, of course, is a metaphor for bringing romance to Jones, who's stuck in a passionless marriage at home and has a dreary office at work. He's the type of guy who confides in the fish in his backyard pond when an argument erupts with his wife.
And Harriet seems to be an unlikely love interest. She's the epitome of glamour and sophistication, and she has a dashing boyfriend who's headed off to war.
But it's important to note that Lasse Hallstrom, who is known for such feel-good movies as "Chocolat," directs "Salmon Fishing," and that Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter for "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Full Monty," has plenty of experience tugging at the heartstrings.
If not for the chemistry and witty dialogue between McGregor and Blunt, "Salmon Fishing" would probably be descend into a quirky, precious mess. And some people still might cringe at the visual gimmicks that the director uses when dealing with various political shenanigans.
But "Salmon Fishing" is, at its heart, quite sweet and upbeat. And that's not a bad way to spend the evening.
Correction: In an earlier version of this review the name of the director of "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" was incorrect. It's Lasse Hallstrom.