out of Five
Running time: 112
Enjoyable, sweet-natured British comedy-drama, enlivened by terrific performances from McGregor, Blunt and a scene-stealing Kristin Scott Thomas, though the tone is occasionally uneven and it's slightly let down by an unconvincing ending.
What's it all about?
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (making his umpteenth adaptation of a best-seller), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is based on the novel by Paul Torday and stars Ewan McGregor as stuffy UK government fishing expert Fred Jones, who's reluctantly teamed with financial advisor Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) and tasked with helping wealthy sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) establish a salmon fishing site in the Yemen. At first Fred deems the project impossible but when the sheikh agrees to his financial estimates, Fred finds himself gradually won over by Muhammed's passion for the project and the pair bond over their shared love of fishing.
At the same time, Fred's bickering relationship with Harriet also blossoms into a mutual attraction, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that Fred is (unhappily) married and Harriet is pining for her missing-in-action soldier boyfriend (Tom Mison). Meanwhile, no-nonsense government press secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) battles behind the scenes to ensure that her 'good Middle East story' doesn't run into choppy water.
McGregor delivers his best performance in years as Fred, and his transition from repressed, prissy government minion to impassioned idealist is nicely handled. He also has terrific chemistry with Blunt, who is both charming and delightful as Harriet. However, the acting honours are neatly stolen by Kristin Scott Thomas, who gets all the best lines as Patricia, even if she does seem to be in a slightly different movie to everyone else (that movie being In The Loop).
Simon Beaufoy's script injects a tiny hint of the spirit of the classic Ealing comedies and is at its best when dealing with the various political wranglings (e.g. Patricia under-estimating exactly how “Fishy Weekly” subscribers will react to the project) and the burgeoning, sweet-natured relationship between Fred and Harriet. That said, the script has enough on its plate with the political satire and the light-hearted romance, so the introduction of both an assassination plot (by a religious extremist attempting to destroy the project) and the downbeat complications of Fred and Harriet's existing relationships means that the tone is occasionally uneven, with the sub-plots feeling both under-developed and unsatisfying.
Despite its slightly uneven nature, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an engaging and enjoyable comedy-drama with a gentle, witty script and a trio of terrific performances from McGregor, Blunt and Scott Thomas. Worth seeing.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (M)