Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Now Showing at: Mariemont Theatre and AMC Newport on the Levee
Review by: Larry Thomas
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is an awkward title for what does turn out to be a reasonably charming film. Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom has turned out several films that managed to garner favor with both critics and public alike. His first notable achievement, 1987’s My Life As A Dog, was an art house favorite. After moving to the US to work for the studios, Hallstrom also gave us What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, an early hit for Johnny Depp and Leonardo di Caprio; The Cider House Rules, which won an Oscar for Sir Michael Caine; his biggest hit to date, the whimsical Chocolat with Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, and Johnny Depp; and my favorite on his resume, The Shipping News starring Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett. While Hallstrom may not dig very deep, what there is on the surface is, more often than not, charming and even entertaining. And in these days of really bad movies, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
His latest, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, is a trifle, but a pleasant one, in which a fisheries expert, played by Ewan MacGregor, is approached to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing his passion for fishing to the not-particularly salmon-friendly desert.
MacGregor’s character also encounters a seriously efficient public relations operative who smells the feel-good potential of this offbeat plan. Emily Blunt, from The Devil Wears Prada, is just fine in the role. And the ubiquitous Kristen Scott-Thomas essays the press secretary to the British Prime Minister. The charismatic Amr Waked, a fine actor who is virtually unknown on this side of the pond, plays the sheik.
Given the whimsical nature of the title and plot, and the acting skills and charm of the principal cast, it’s not too hard to figure out in which direction things will go. MacGregor is unhappily married; Blunt is involved with a soldier; Scott-Thomas is enamored of success; and Waked is quite taken with doing something good and different for both his people and his country. Connect the dots, and you have a plot.
The script is adapted from a British novel by screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who won an Oscar for performing the same duty on Slumdog Millionaire a few years back. Terry Stacey’s cinematography makes good use of the foreign locales, and the score is adequate, if a bit familiar, as done by Dario Marinelli, who composed the music for last year’s version of Jane Eyre.
And that also sums up Salmon Fishing In The Yemen as a whole: adequate, if a bit familiar. You won’t find anything particularly new here, but it’s hard not to like a film that does exude an acceptable amount of… there’s that word again… charm.
No one will win any Oscars for this, it won’t change the face of filmmaking as we know it, and next year you may be hard pressed to remember it. But in the short run it is what it needs to be: entertaining.