“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is one of many recent books with provocative titles, this example perhaps perfect for conversion to a cinematic romantic comedy.
Buttoned up Scottish fishing obsessive Dr Jones (Ewan McGregor), gently easing himself towards a breakup of his hum drum marriage to his globe trotting wife, is approached to mastermind the aforementioned preposterous project.
The scheme would allow Sheikh Muhammed, all robes and mysterious Eastern knowledge, to fish for Salmon in the Yemen, not an area previously known for it’s Fly Fishing regions. The Sheik, roughly but not unsympathetically played by Amr Waked, is completing plans to build a dam to allow the flooding and irrigation of areas previously starved of water. Clearly an Anglophile and well versed in all of the fine arts that so many Englishman ignore, he proposes as a side line to the main Dam project, to indulge his love of Salmon fishing in his own country
If it costs the 50 Million pounds that Dr Jones randomly suggests, based on purely theoretical ideas, then so be it.
The Sheik is looked after by an investment firm, more importantly by the rather lovely Ms Harriet (Emily Blunt), who of course adds a certain frisson to the scheme for the dusty, bookish Doctor.
Blunt and McGregor play this part well, the opening scenes are delightful, light frothy and perfect for a date night picture.
The scheme starts to come together and attracts political clout as Patricia Maxwell (Kristen Scott Thomas) senses an opportunity for a much needed “good news” Middle East story. Maxwell is press secretary for the UK Prime Minsiter and this scheme moves up onto the high priority list, with all the media circus that this entails.
The path of true love must of course be littered with obstacles and Harriet comes with an attached but absent soldier boyfriend (Tom Mison), who may or may not still be available.
The story moves along well until about the mid-point where some element of reality creeps in and then the story takes some outlandish twists, which rather deflates the delicate soufflé carefully concocted earlier in the piece.
The press secretary, PM and associated political animals are portrayed as crude caricature, although Dr Jones’s boss gets some good lines. The UK-set office scenes, bland and washed of colour are in neat contrast to the location shoots representing Yemen (Morocco) and of course Scotland.
A fun comedy with neat touches (the formal exchange of emails is well played) but the story does sag in the second half with plot developments that distract from the central, gently played comedic but rather touching love story.
Based on the book by Paul Torday.
Enjoyable but ultimately a little disappointing romantic comedy from an accomplished Director (Lasse Hallstrom), despite solid turns from the central leads.