Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Review
Based on a popular novel by Paul Torday, the adaptation of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
seemed like typical middle class fare to appeal to middle England. While it is that, “Salmon Fishing” is a surprisingly enjoyable light comedy now available on DVD and Blu-ray that should please audiences.
Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) is a consultant representing a wealthy Yemeni sheikh (Amr Waked) who wants to introduce salmon fishing in the harsh climates of the Middle East. She contacts Dr. Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor), a fisheries expert and civil servant with the British government who tells her it is unfeasible. But after a Mosque is blown up in Afghanistan, the Prime Minister's communications director Patricia Maxwell (Kristen Scott Thomas) tries to find a good news story from the Middle East and happens upon the project, forcing Dr. Jones to work with Harriet after all. As the project progresses, Harriet and Fred become close and their personal lives are thrown into turmoil.
What makes Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
work is that Blunt and McGregor are both very likable screen presences, having excellent chemistry together and being very natural in their respective roles. McGregor is strong as a nerdy hero who plays his character straight, but writer Simon Beaufoy makes sure he has plenty of witty lines. He's relatable as a man working in a boring government department who has troubles at home.
Blunt has been making a career off playing the love interest, but she is very good at it, crafting likable playful characters. Harriet is an intelligent and determined woman who's also vulnerable at times. The best moments in the movie were her interactions with McGregor's Fred.
Thomas plays an almost cartoonish villain, but she does offer us some of the biggest laughs as an Alastair Campbell-like (Tony Blair’s Communications Director) figure who is willing to manipulate and threaten people to do her bidding. She had little screen time, but she certainly made her presence felt. It was only in the third act that the character falls apart and seems petty.
As for everyone else, some of the other actors were mugging, the main offender being Conleth Hill as head of Fred's department. The political satire did not feel either biting or real enough for people to relate to it; it just felt out of place to the story of Fred and Harriet. One aspect that felt real and strong was the character of Robert played by Tom Mison, who was made out to be a decent bloke, not the typical unlikable scumbag that is typical of rom-coms.
Despite the seemingly standard direction, Lasse Hallström does a lot to make “Salmon Fishing” as visual an experience as possible. Hallström provides us some inventive uses of split screens to enhance some of the humor and some montages involving computers and stills that helped speed up what could have been something very dull. Underwater photography was also used, though some of the CGI was overly noticeable in those sequences.
As a comedy, “Salmon Fishing” is not going to provide massive belly laughs, but it should make you smile. It is a solid and enjoyable film even with all its faults.