This month saw Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom return to the director’s chair with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a British rom-com starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. Hallstrom’s last picture, Dear John, was more of a romantic tragedy, both in terms of plot synopsis and critical response. With this in mind, is Hallstrom’s latest release a real catch, or just a damp squib?
Ewan Mcgregor plays Fred, an anally retentive civil servant and fisheries expert who is contacted by beautiful consultant Harriott (Blunt) on the behalf of her client, a Yemeni Sheikh looking for advice on introducing Salmon fishing to his country. Although initially dismissing the project as “unfeasible”, Fred is coerced into pursuing it by domineering government Press Secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott-Thomas), looking to promote the venture in the media as a good news story coming out of the Middle East. Once overseas however, Fred and Harriot find themselves battling both professionally and personally, as individual relationship problems collide with the pragmatic issues affecting the job at hand.
As much as I would like to fill this review with negative fishing related puns (hook line and stinker, tenuously drawing comparisons between the mediocrity of the film and the mediocrity of Wigan Athletic footballer Connor Sammon), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is actually a perfectly enjoyable film. The casting is superb with veteran actor Kristin Scott-Thomas stealing the show with her portrayal as bossy media guru Patricia Maxwell and Ewan McGregor also performing admirably in his turn as the amiable Dr Fred Jones, particularly given that his character is described as a much older man in the book on which the film is based.
Occasionally the script does border on the bizarre, with assassination attempts and Yemeni saboteurs thrown in to spice up the plot. This isn’t necessary though, as the core story is entertaining enough to carry the film through. Some may also move to criticise the chemistry between Blunt and McGregor too, as a number of romantic scenes that feature the pair give off an atmosphere about as wet as the salmon they are attempting to introduce to Arabia.
These issues are minor however, and don’t have much of an effect on the film’s overall enjoyment. Don’t expect Salmon Fishing in the Yemen to be hoovering up academy awards any time soon, but if you have a couple of hours spare over the weekend, consider reeling this one in.