Written by Guest Writer Marcus Kaye
Being neither a person of faith, nor a blue-haired “young at heart” individual, you wouldn’t think that Lasse Hallstrom’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, would be for me. But you’d think wrong.
Written by Simon Beaufoy (of Slumdog Millionaire) and featuring a cast of Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was one of the best scripts I’d read at work. I said “Hey! Bosses, we should make this movie!” to which they promptly told me “no.” I couldn’t tell you why at the time, but I may know now.
The movie tells the story of a British publicity stunt to improve Middle Eastern/ British relations. A fisheries expert (McGregor) is called to the Yemen to help conceive a plan to bring the sport of salmon fishing to Yemen. His benefactor is one Sheikh Muhammed who, with the help of his financial advisor (Blunt), pours 50 million pounds into the project. Along the way, of course, McGregor (a straight laced man of science) and Blunt (a free-spirited woman of faith) fall for one another, despite their significant others.
Not a believer himself, McGregor is at first apprehensive, but soon Muhammed and Blunt bring him to the other side. What is fishing but faith? asks Muhammed. Day in and day out we plunge our rods into this river with faith that we’ll bring a fish out.
Kristin Scott Thomas is fantastic as the press secretary attempting to bring a story out of the Middle East that doesn’t have explosions in it. This is also the lightest fare I think I have ever seen her in, and she doesn’t disappoint (although her hairstyle does… eek!)
So why was I told no when I tried to pass this script up? It has NO commercial appeal. The faith based market, which makes the most sense will avoid this Middle Eastern set dramedy like it was one of the plagues that hit the people of Egypt so many years ago. Telling red-state America that Muslin Sheikh Muhammed’s faith is the same as their own? No way.
Outside of the commerciality of the film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen had another issue in regards to the themes associated with Ewan McGregor’s character Fred. He is a man in a mid-life crisis, and as his wife tells him when he tries to leave her – you’ll come back. It’s in your DNA. SPOLIER, he doesn’t. But this logic, that DNA determines what we do, is central to the reason the farm Salmon run up stream. Even though they never have before, it’s in their DNA. So why have faith that the fish DNA will do as predicted, but the human DNA does not?
On a purely cosmetic level, Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt are both wildly attractive people. Their names in the film? Not so much. Fred Jones and Harriet Chetwode-Talbot. What a mouth full.
McGregor’s blasé scientist is great departure from the roles he usually occupies and he does it great justice. His chemistry with Blunt is fantastic, and outside of a ridiculous moment involving his fishing rod and an assassination attempt on the Sheikh, McGregor is completely convincing as this middle of the road British man.
Overall, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a charming movie that is in itself a positive news story out of the Middle East that doesn’t involve explosions. After all is said and done, the true miracle will not be whether or not salmon fishing can happen in Yemen, but whether an audience cares enough to go and find out.