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Just when I thought I was finished going to movies because so many are just plain vulgar, boring, and loud and not worth the investment of my time, along comes this near perfect piece of filmmaking. The story, the characters, the actors that were chosen, and the dialogue (refreshingly witty and at times thought provoking)... it all comes together in so enjoyable a fashion that I did not want the show to end! Aside from the foul-mouthed politicians (what a surprise, right?), there was not one minute of the movie I would change in any way. If you want to come away from a movie-going experience feeling good with plenty of information to discuss afterwards with your date, then RUN to see "Salmon Fishing in Yemen"!
Enjoying a film like "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" is similar to
acquiring a taste for actual fishing. Like the sport that some find
invigorating while others find it dreadfully dull, this film has its
draggy moments. However, there are also enlightening points to the
movie that come when you least expect them.
Of course, that is not to say that you have to actually LIKE fishing, or understand it, to enjoy "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen". Fishing serves as a crucial plot point, but you don't have to be a card-carrying member of Cabella's or L.L. Bean to enjoy it.
The film has elements of romantic comedy, environmentalism, foreign relations drama, and insightfulness that makes it difficult to concretely categorize. Fortunately, all these facets combine to create a story that's far from predictable. Just like a current, there are times you don't know where the story is going.
Ewan McGregor plays Fred Jones, a fisheries expert for the British government who receives an odd request from legal representative Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt). Harriet represents a wealthy sheik (Amr Waked) who resides in both Great Britain and Yemen, and has an unusual fondness for salmon fishing. He wants to take a healthy population of salmon from the British lakes, and transport them to the Yemen River to live and breed.
The reason this plot does not make for good cocktail party small talk or water cooler chatter is because it takes such a long time to describe the rationale behind such an ambitious task. For instance, can salmon, who thrive in cold water, even survive in the Middle East, where it's obviously hot? Plus, why would people from Yemen even be interested in fishing? The film answers these questions and others very well, and allows the story to breathe better as each subplot reveals itself. Nothing is rushed in this movie, which, while a few parts drag here and there, is overall a welcome departure from certain high-octane multiplex drivel that passes as entertainment.
Once you actually listen to the characters and hear their reasoning, a lot of the story makes sense. This fact is especially true for Amr Waked, who is not yet a well known actor, but whose character has a profound impact on the film.
Western audiences are not used to seeing a Middle Eastern character that is not a terrorist, let alone one who credibly connects fishing and faith better than any PBS show even could. Waked, who is Egyptian in real life but whose character is Yemeni, does so incredibly well, and is truly the breakout star of this movie. It's a shame that Oscar season just ended, because the early release of this film alone hurts his chances of receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination, although he deserves it.
The inevitable love story in the movie is also unpredictable, if only because you're not sure whether McGregor and Blunt should be together. McGregor's Fred is married, and Blunt's Harriet has a boyfriend who is sent off to fight in the Afghanistan War. There are plot twists for both characters, but even you, the audience, remains unsure whether the two characters working together so well to bring salmon to Yemen means they should be together. It creates a necessary tension few romantic comedies dare to address.
As for their performances, McGregor seems to play a more mature leading role than in other films he's made before. His character here is more practical than idealist (as in "Moulin Rouge" (2001)), more professional than playboy (as in "Down With Love" (2003)), and knows where his morals lie (unlike "Trainspotting" (1996)). While he was good in those other films, he can only play those roles for so long.
Emily Blunt also delivered a balanced, multi-layered performance, and worked very well off McGregor. I thought there would be an explanation for why her character's last name was hyphenated, as you almost never see characters with two last names in movies. Could there have been a failed marriage in her past, perhaps? It wasn't ever explained, nor was it really crucial to the plot.
Kristin Scott Thomas also provides some unexpected comic relief as a press secretary for Parliament who chats with the British Prime Minister on Instant Messenger. Her character spearheads the campaign to transport the salmon to Yemen in order to divert public attention from the Afghanistan War. Again, a crucial subplot, but one that has to be seen, not explained second hand.
"Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" is enjoyable like some find fishing to be: there's a lot of calm to it, but when the funny parts happen, they can be as surprising and as fulfilling as catching a big fish. Also, if you actually listen to Amr Waked's character the same way some expert fisherman have pearls of wisdom, the movie's enjoyment may even come as a bigger surprise.
There's a line in the movie that goes, "We need a good story about the Middle East that doesn't have explosions." This is it! Hilarious and touching, Ewan, Emily, and Amr are fantastic. Ewan plays this homely, heads-down British government biologist to a T. Amr is a promising newcomer. And Emily is always amazing. I saw this at the opening in Toronto and the audience loved it. No wonder it was the first one sold at the festival. A big of an underdog, a lot of other people thought it was the best they saw too. Maybe they should change the name to something catchier. That's my only suggestion. I hope this changes how people view the middle east, even in a small way.
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
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.
OK I had read the book and did'nt know quite what to expect from the film. It is different great in its own way. Its a very British film with all the gentle humour irony and brilliant acting you would expect. Kristin Scott Thomas steals it for me as the pushy Press Secretary to the Prime Minister and really deserves recognition as supporting actress. The scene where she is getting her kids off to school and her comments to her son are hilarious in street talk. Emily Blunt is delicious and Ewan McGregor plays his most understated but elegant role yet. Loved the scene with his wife Mary in the bedroom with him wearing flannel blue striped pyjamas Great casting, great acting, great script,great photography. What's not to like,oh the salmon were fantastic , don't actually know if any were hurt in the filming, but bet if they were they tasted great! Lovely movie
Seriously, "Salmon Fishing in The Yemen" is simply a joy to watch. Not since "Hugo" have I seen a film with so much heart to it. What makes this such a joy is its impish sense of humor, irreverence toward the British government, the simply delightful acting of leads McGregor and Blunt (who has never looked so good as she does here), the appealing nature of so many characters, and, perhaps most of all, its unpredictability. The audience enjoyed an awful lot of laugh out loud moments, a few tears, and a bit of excitement and danger. The film had you rooting for its the Sheik and the two lead characters -- and unlike all too many films, you don't see where it's going. If you enjoy a whopping good time at the flicks, this is a film you should see on the big screen while you still can.
A rich sheik has decided that he would like to bring the faith and
sport of fly-fishing to Yemen. British fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred
Jones (Ewan McGregor), thinks it's a joke. But the PM likes the idea of
positive Anglo-Yemeni cooperation and the 2 million potential voters
who fish. Dr. Jones still thinks it's a joke. The sheik transfers $50
Million over to his consultant's firm, and thus the project begins.
Dr. Jones still thinks it's a joke. And that is where the film shines. The filmmakers don't really treat it as if it's a true story and keep the humour sharp throughout. It's more closely related to a light-hearted romantic comedy rather than a sharp-edged political memoir. But again, this is where it shines, because it's so much better than a light-hearted romantic comedy. McGregor nails his serious character, allowing us to experience his whimsical sense of humour beneath his scientific demeanor. It's a character that I instantly connected with and it has never been better written or portrayed as it was here.
To me, the second best character was Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked). (Although at this point most people would prefer to mention the foul-mouthed press secretary by Kristin Scott Thomas). The sheikh splits his time between the desert of Yemen and the beautiful flowing streams through the mountains and glens of Scotland. He wants to bring the serenity and faith that fly-fishing brings to his people in the Middle East. Dr. Jones fishes but he is not religious. The sheikh found this a very confusing dichotomy in his character until they both realized that faith is not the same thing as religion.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is very funny and approaches political satire level. We know, and Dr, Jones knows, that fish do not survive in the desert. So obviously this is all a big joke, but as we also all know, money and power outweigh common sense. But it starts becoming clear that this might actually work after we realize that the sheikh is driven by faith not religion, nor money. And the media comes in and creates war heroes and emotions out of nothing. As I said, the film is very funny but it doesn't skewer the politicians or media as much as we would want them to. At that point it becomes a romantic comedy.
The genre shouldn't really matter though because it's so cute and charming, and enjoyable on every level. I'm assuming the book focuses more on the political and engineering maneuvers required to bring salmon to Yemen; here we just stuck with the characters. But I loved these characters.
"You can't catch faith with a fishing rod." After Harriet (Blunt) contacts Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor) about a Shiek from Yemen who wants to bring the sport of salmon fishing to his country he laughs it off. After being given no choice in the matter Jones begins to do just enough to keep his job. After meeting the Shiek and helping Harriet through a crisis his outlook begins to change. He puts everything he has into making the dream possible. The sign of a good movie is one that keeps you interested and makes you like it when you aren't even in the mood to watch it. I wanted to watch this based off the preview, but at the time I sat down to see it I really wasn't in the mood for a movie like this. It did start off a little slow but quickly sucked me in and by the end I was so into it that I couldn't remember why I didn't want to watch it. I have fished many times but I'm not what you would call an avid fisherman. The reason I say that is because this movie has the perfect balance of enough fishing to keep fisherman entertained, but not enough to make it all about fishing, much like the way "A River Runs Through It" did. The last twenty minutes of the movie makes you feel a proverbial "rollar-coaster" of emotions. Every few minutes something happens that changes how you feel while not turning into the cheesy and sappy ending that it could have been. Overall, a good movie that people who fish and those who don't will both enjoy. I liked it. I give it a B+.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is a charming, quirky, very British film
that, despite its flaws (notably, a number of plot implausibilities),
is an enjoyable watch.
A somewhat eccentric sheikh has the idea of exporting the concept of salmon fishing from his estate in Scotland to the desert areas of the Yemen. Leading UK fishing scientist Dr Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is recruited by rapacious British government PR specialist Bridget Maxwell (brilliantly played by Kristin Scott Thomas) to take charge of the project. Dr Jones becomes romantically attracted to the sheikh's PA (Emily Blunt), who is also involved in the scheme.
The amiable nature of the film, coupled with its gentle satire, give it the air of some of those Ealing comedies of the 1950s, such as "Passport to Pimlico" and "The Lavender Hill Mob". It is beautifully shot - there are some stunning scenes of the very picturesque Scottish countryside and landscape - and is extremely well acted by the entire cast, in particular the three leading actors. The script is also often very witty.
Some of the detail of the plot does not stand up to close scrutiny. Dr Jones saves the life of the sheikh in a ridiculously unbelievable manner. And it beggars belief that the one person who unexpectedly emerges alive and unscathed from an otherwise fatally unsuccessful military exercise overseas is Captain Robert Mayers, the partner of Harriet (the sheikh's PA). His appearance throws a spanner in the works of the burgeoning closeness between Harriet and Dr Jones. There are other far-fetched plot contrivances of this sort. But, somehow the film survives these difficulties to provide almost two hours of undemanding entertainment that is ideal family viewing. 7/10.
With a title like Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, it's either a story
about the impossible, or that which deals with fishing. It's thankfully
the former which makes it a little more engaging and less of a focus on
what could be a solitary activity, and a romance-comedy-drama that
centers about the theme of hope, even though this British film has
plenty of elements to keep one entertained, especially the good ol
British wit and humour that comes fast and furious when the need calls
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom whose last film was an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' Dear John, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is based on the novel by Paul Torday, that tells the unlikely romance that sparked between Dr Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) and investment consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) while working on a theoretically possible project funded by a rich Yemeni Sheikh Muhammad (Amr Waked). Dr Jones, the bureaucrat stuck in a dead end job and happily coasting along in spite of having useless superiors, is the initial skeptic, preferring the status quo than to question and set challenges for himself, being the expert on fishing and a mean fly-fisher himself, while Harriet is that can-do go-getting consultant who doesn't take no for an answer, herself in a sub story arc involving a British soldier sent to the frontlines in Afghanistan.
Together, they work under a programme mooted by the Sheikh to bring salmon fishing to his country, which of course has plenty of detractors especially from extremists who see this as a waste of resources spent on infidel activities involving the West, especially so since Kristin Scott-Thomas' thrash talking Bridget Maxwell, the publicist for 10 Downing Street, sees it as opportunity to raise the Anglo-Yemeni friendship and profile. The character of Bridget Maxwell is probably the one bringing in most of the laughs for her potty mouth ways, with expletives almost always finding their way into her communications, verbal, over the internet, or otherwise, and you'd wonder just how the Prime Minister's Office could have survived one PR disaster after another.
Most of the narrative circled around the friendship and relations formed between the trio of Dr Jones, Harriet and the Sheikh, developing bonds that wouldn't have existed if not for this 50 million pounds project. It's not as if it is about those with plenty of oil money and finding themselves not knowing what to do with it, but about the spreading of far larger ideals that go into community bonding. And the romantic tale almost felt like an after thought into the second half, finding it irresistible not to have now fellow colleagues fall in love because it's a waste of good looking talent not to. There isn't any threat in the film to put things in a spin other than the battle against nature and elements that get systematically addressed, and extremists who don't get air time lest this film gets spun into a war on terror story, aside from an assassination and sabotage attempt.
It's been too long since Ewan McGregor played an Englishman, and one with impeccable manners at that, which is something his character will strike you from the onset, minding his Ps and his Qs, with the penchant for the prim and the proper. The subplot involving a slowly estranged wife was something seen coming since it stood in the way of a possible relationship with Emily Blunt's Harriet, and essentially is a weak point in the narrative that could have been done without, since it added little emotional depth to the plot. Harriet on the other hand had an equally tit-for-tat plot arc that also didn't do wonders for the story, and together they made it feel as if there was a need to throw each character into their respective romance (or lack thereof) arcs with someone else until work got in the way. It didn't help of course when Kristin Scott-Thomas was in her element being cast against type.
ultimately it's a feel good movie about hope and that leap of faith, so long as someone is funding a dream to fruition or failure. The more important central arc of fulfilling the titular dream was the most engaging, with sub plots being nothing more than a distraction that didn't offer any emotional depth, and padded the story to a feature length one. Thankfully there's comedy thrown in now and then, otherwise this would really have been like a solo fishing trip and attempt that calls for plenty of patience for something to finally bite.
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