Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked
Watch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
The gentle slapping of the still water against your legs. The breeze on your face. The whirr of the line as you cast off. The promise of gilled goodness underneath the surface, just waiting to be caught. Millionaire Sheikh Muhammed (Waked) is determined to being the buzz of fishing to the Yemen. For him, it’s an act of faith, a trust in the water’s ability to provide.
And so he hires Ms. Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt) to recruit a fish expert to do it. The expert? Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor), a man who spends his time talking about fish, wearing cardigans and calling people by their surname. Harriet is keen to get Alfred on board to carry out the rich man’s extravagant scheme. Even keener are Her Majesty’s government, who need some happy news to come out of the Middle East to counteract all the bad news from Afghanistan. And so Alfred flies out to Yemen to hear the Sheikh’s plans for the future. (They involve fish.)
“Fishermen don’t care if I’m brown or white or religious. They just care about the fish,” intones Amr Waked’s Sheikh, all spiritual metaphors about salmon swimming upstream. Lasse Hallström laps it up, cutting to slow-motion shots of Ewan McGregor pushing through crowds of people in the street. It’s not exactly a subtle film.
But there’s still a lot of fun to be had from Simon Beaufoy’s script. Playing on Paul Torday’s epistolary novel, the Slumdog screenwriter chucks in some instant messaging with the folks back home; while Fred emails his distant wife, Harriet hangs on an answer phone waiting for news of her soldier boyfriend. All the while, Alfred’s frustrated boss, Bernard (Game of Thrones’ Conleth Hill), fields a barrage of calls from the PM’s PR team, trying to piece all the bits together into a feel-good story.
In someone else’s hands, this could have been a cracking political satire (watch out for Malcolm from Spooks as a clueless Foreign Secretary). But McGregor and Blunt make for a charming couple (she even gets him to stop wearing a cardigan), Kristin Scott Thomas’ Malcolm Tucker-esque presence distracts from the unnecessary subplots, and everyone manages to keep their heads above water while Lasse Hallström floods the place in whimsy. You just wonder what the salmon make of it all.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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