Movies: "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"
Movies: "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"


Blink and you might miss this sprightly little movie whose title tells the story of its preposterous plot.  But if you’re looking for a break from big-budget shoot-em-ups or dopey comedies, this is just the ticket.


Deskbound British fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) can barely believe it when he’s contacted by bright young business consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt) about a proposal to create a salmon stream in Yemen.  But the man with the plan is Yemeni Sheikh Mohammed (Egyptian movie star Amr Waked, who also played a Sheikh named Mohammed in “Syriana”), who has deep pockets and even deeper insights into the mysteries of fly casting.  “To a fisherman,” he tells Jones, “only three things matter: patience, tolerance and faith.” 


Dr. Jones’ reluctance is overcome by some high-level politicking by the Prime Ministers’s press secretary (the great Kristin Scott Thomas), desperate for a feel-good news story from the Middle East.  The looming presence of the war in Afghanistan is underscored by the disappearance in action of Harriet’s soldier boyfriend Robert (handsome Tom Mison).   As for Jones, he has his own personal MIA: wife Mary (Rachael Stirling) is constantly packing for economic conferences in Geneva.


Before long, Jones and Harriet find themselves in the Yemeni desert (actually Morocco), where the Sheikh has built a huge water project that he hopes to stock with Scottish salmon.  Will love spawn under the desert sky?  Will the fish they’ve helicoptered in actually swim upstream?  And what about those Islamic radicals who threaten the Sheikh and his project?


Best not to look too closely at the nuts and bolts of this chipper fantasy, based on a novel by Paul Torday with a screenplay by the talented Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire” and a personal favorite, “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”).  The movie was directed by Swedish stalwart Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat” and “The Cider House Rules” among many others) and features a formal visual composition by cinematographer Terry Stacey (“50/50”).


“Salmon Fishing” works very nicely, thank you, due in large part to its solid casting and overall decency.  It’s rated PG-13, only because some of the characters sleep together, but there are no explosions, gunshot wounds or terribly naughty language.  If all this sounds like your cup of tea, better see it soon.  It won’t be around much longer.


I give it a B-Plus.