A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.
A visionary sheik believes his passion for the peaceful pastime of salmon fishing can enrich the lives of his people, and he dreams of bringing the sport to the not so fish-friendly desert. Willing to spare no expense, he instructs his representative to turn the dream into reality, an extraordinary feat that will require the involvement of Britain's leading fisheries expert who happens to think the project both absurd and unachievable. That is, until the Prime Minister's overzealous press secretary latches on to it as a 'good will' story. Now, this unlikely team will put it all on the line and embark on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible, possible. Written by
Fly-Fishing and Romance Mix in a Charming Tale of Fulfilling Dreams Against the Odds
This one did snag me with a lure most appealing. Be forewarned that this 2012 romantic dramedy is idiosyncratic and full of whimsy, which should come as no surprise as the director is Lasse Hallström whose most successful films ("Chocolat", "The Cider House Rules", "My Life As a Dog") turn on flights of fancy. Besides, it's certainly not every romantic comedy that encompasses hydro-engineering, environmentalism, Middle East tensions, and British populism. What holds these disparate subjects together is the pipe dream one Yemeni sheikh has to bring salmon fishing to the wadis of his homeland. Adapted by Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire") from a popular 2006 Brit-lit book by Paul Torday, the story primarily concerns the two people who get caught up in Sheikh Muhammad's dream - tweedy fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones, Fred to his friends, and super-efficient public relations consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot.
They are enlisted by Patricia Maxwell, the hell-on-heels press officer for the British prime minister who is desperate for a feel-good distraction from the bloodshed occurring in Afghanistan. She is immediately drawn to the human interest angle of the salmon fishing story as well as the revelation that there are at least two million anglers in the U.K. Fred thinks the idea is ridiculous and for good reason the plan is to build a dam (which looks as big as Hoover Dam), construct an elaborate irrigation system, and stock the waters with 10,000 North Atlantic salmon, all for the hefty price tag of fifty million pounds. Alas, Fred gradually succumbs to the deeply spiritual nature and ecological sensibilities of the sheikh's quest as well as Harriet's quiet persistence and demure charms. Complicating matters is the fact that Fred is unhappily married, while Harriet is getting serious with a handsome soldier who gets shipped to Afghanistan.
Given the attractive leads, the romantic sparks are not surprising, but their cautious relationship and soulful connection provide much of the movie's unforced charm. The more fanciful events in the last half-hour do bring a level of incredulity for which Hallström has become renowned, and the terrorist subplot is woefully underdeveloped relative to the love story. However, the actors in exchange deliver nicely turned performances with Ewan McGregor ("Beginners") at his most modestly suppressed as Fred. Usually cast in brittle or saucy roles, Emily Blunt ("The Young Victoria") brings unfettered charm to Harriet without sacrificing her steely intelligence. Kristin Scott Thomas ("The English Patient") easily steals all her scenes as Maxwell with acidic panache, while Amr Waked ("Syriana") brings a charismatic calm to the sheikh. Kudos should go to Terry Stacey ("50/50") for his handsome cinematography which captures London, Morocco (subbing for Yemen), and especially Scotland in postcard-worthy tableaux.
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