‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Adapt and evolve – hey, it’s what we do.

But when you get stuck in the rut of your life without realizing it, it’s nice to have someone unexpected come along and nudge you out of it.

That, at least, is one of the lessons to take away from “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” a charming romantic comedy that works because of the chemistry between Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, and because Simon Beaufoy’s script never reaches for a rowdy joke when it can make a smart one.

Based on a novel by Paul Torday, this film by Lasse Hallstrom sets itself in the realm of the amusingly polite give-and-take of upper British governmental bureaucracy. The British government gets a request from a Yemeni oil sheikh for assistance in trying to bring his favorite sport, salmon fishing, to his native country.

The request comes through his investment adviser, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), and is rejected out of hand by the governmental-fisheries expert it reaches: Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor). But when the British prime minister’s chief press officer (Kristin Scott Thomas) goes looking for a “good news” story involving Anglo-Yemeni relations, the Yemen-salmon project suddenly gets fast-tracked.

So Jones, who thinks the whole idea is ridiculous, is drafted to make it happen. He skeptically spit-balls ideas to Harriet – who begins to make them happen. In short order, the sheikh (Amr Waked) has committed $50 million to the project’s development – and Jones finds himself being seduced by the fly-fishing on one of the sheikh’s Scottish estates, and by the visionary sheikh himself.

The project comes to dominate the life of Jones, who has a civil but passionless marriage to a businesswoman (Rachael Stirling). And it serves to distract Harriet, whose boyfriend has been called up for military service in Afghanistan and later goes missing in action.

The plot itself mostly involves obstacles to the building of a salmon spawning ground in the Middle East – everything from the environment itself to rounding up enough salmon to foiling the plots of Islamist extremists, who believe the sheikh’s project invites an unholy intrusion of Western influence.

But the real treat here is the relationship ju-jitsu that goes on between McGregor and Blunt.

This review continues on my website.

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