Not being one to let a bad fish eating experience immediately prior to this cinema outing put me off a film about salmon fishing, I am pleased to confirm that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not only not really about salmon fishing, it’s also not really about the Yemen. Instead, what we have is a very likeable and unchallenging drama about a man who loves to salmon fish and a woman who knows an awful lot about the Yemen. When you add the names of Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt and throw in a surprising amount of chemistry and a very appealing script, you may find yourself spending a wonderfully enjoyable couple of hours. It’s fair to say, though, that the salmon don’t come out of it as well.
Dr Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is some kind of fish scientist, passing his days by making fishing flies and throwing darts at his boss. He spends his evenings feeding his pond fish as some kind of therapy for an unhappy marriage. He is given the distraction he needs by a preposterous morale-raising government project. He is tasked by Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), a fearsome press secretary, to work on a scheme proposed by Sheikh Mohammed (Amr Waked) to transform the desert canyons of the Yemen into rivers rich with running salmon. The fact that this project costs many millions of pounds and will benefit one person seems by the by. Helping Dr Jones is Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), an investor with control of Sheikh Mohammed’s ample purse. This project, should it work, which Dr Jones believes is highly unlikely, will enable the personable Sheikh to fish without the regular trips to Scotland but the theory is also that the voting population will look kinder upon politicians photographed salmon fishing alongside the Sheikh. Apparently, an awful lot of voters fish. Even more, presumably, eat fish.
The charm of this film is undoubtedly in its stars. Kristin Scott Thomas is deliciously snappy, spitting out many of the script’s best lines, but Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt play gentle, vulnerable souls, who each have their issues at home and, in Blunt’s case, some very real heartbreak. The dialogue is funny and often sweet which, after seeing a movie in which battleships and aliens fight each other to ear-deafening annihilation, is not necessarily anything bad. But among the laughs are some scenes which I’m slightly ashamed to say made me sob my eyes out. But then I am very sentimental when it comes to romantic dramas that involve animals.
The scenery is fantastic. We move from the rich fast-flowing, tree-lined waters of Scotland to the arid deserts of the Yemen, complete with tents pitched around fires, before breathtaking sunsets.
There is some ridiculousness in the plotting, not all of which involves salmon, but I was prepared to forgive it because I had a truly wonderful night in the cinema, laughing and crying, making a complete fool of myself. Sometimes, that is exactly what I want from a cinema trip. If I don’t leave the theatre after a romantic drama looking blotchy and red-eyed and wanting to hug the world then I don’t count it a success. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen passed this tricky test.