Does this fucker actually fly?
I dug this movie.
I was on a plane out to California to do some high-altitude hiking in the Cascades. I’d brought my laptop so I could watch something worthwhile (I was leaning towards Punisher: War Zone to amuse the old bat sitting to my right who kept stealing glances at my screen). But then ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ came on. I hadn’t seen it…and Lasse Halstrom has been pretty consistent in the past plus I tend to like Ewan McGregor whenever he’s not wielding a lightsaber.
The dapper and the snapper.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a pleasant surprise. It’s funny, sweet and a little sad – but also a bit hopeful in the end. The movie’s main plot revolves around a billionaire sheik who loves fly fishing. He spends the hot Summers on an estate outside of London (while managing the affairs of his vast oil empire in the Yemen whenever he’s not waving a stick at the water). He’s a master fisherman; well schooled in the ancient art. And he sees fishing as a metaphor for the restoration of faith across the Middle East. The sheik (charmingly portrayed by Egyptian heavy Amr Waked of “Syriana” fame) hires a major English consulting firm to oversee the $50 million creation of a salmon fishing stream near his dam in Yemen. And they predictably scoff at the notion: salmon require cold water, after all, and why would a bunch of dune hoppers be interested in fly rods and hip waders? Last time anyone checked, the Orvitz store in downtown Riyadh wasn’t doing so hot.
“Clearly, this shit ain’t gonna work, yo”.
Ewan McGregor plays Dr. Alfred Jones, a salmon fisheries expert who suffers from Asperger’s (the condition is played softly here with Ewan portrayed merely as difficult and socially awkward). He’s assigned to assist ministry consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt) as a co-project manager overseeing the lofty plan. Putting additional pressure on the project is the Prime Minister’s unscrupulous Press Secretary (a typically shrill Kristin Scott Thomas) who tows an uncomfortable line between approval ratings and personal ambition. There are half a dozen smaller sub-plots (failed marriages, tribal politics, inter-office backstabbing) but the only one that really plays into the tale is Harriet’s boyfriend who goes Missing in Action when his chopper crashes in Afghanistan.
The plot probably has a dozen beats…and, to be fair, all of them work except the last one. It’s not enough to ruin the experience…but the way the missing boyfriend’s tale is worked into the climax feels forced and the film would’ve been the stronger for cutting it altogether.
But that aside, there’s little to criticize here. The performances range from great (Ewan and Amr) to passable (Emily Blunt who seems a little uncomfortable in her own skin). The cinematography is rich and lush – exactly what you’d come to expect from a Lasse Halstrom movie. And the movie works best when it uses fishing as a metaphor for man’s eternal search for faith (and the will to keep hoping even when failures seem to give you every reason to quit).
“A fly rod? Wouldn’t an explosive jacket be better?”
And now a word about Emily Blunt. What’s the fucking deal with her? Where does the interest come from? Sure, she mostly gets it done here – but I just don’t see how she’s become a name in such a short period of time (her performances barely seem to stand out). Was it her legendary turn in Gnomeo & Juliet? Did she really serve The Adjustment Bureau in some way that makes people want to see her in more shit? How does she keep getting cast? If they need a prim brit with decent locks, they should cast Rebecca Hall who manages to take roles and allow them to grow larger than what’s put on the page – and that’s my big gripe with Blunt…other than having a decent last name, not a one of her roles has ever evolved into more than the script calls for. It’s almost an apathy that should be unforgivable. Hell, it’s probably why audiences abandoned Jim Caviezel….people love talent but they hate lazy.
That aside, I give Salmon Fishing in the Yemen a solid three fists. It’s not Halstrom’s best…but it’s quirky and sweet enough to be worthy of a date night watch.
Now thats one fine bass.