Salmon Fishing In The Yemen follows Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) and Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) as they attempt to bring a wealthy sheikh’s vision of fly-fishing in Yemen to fruition. The film also stars Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas and is directed by Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Casanova, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale).
Upon reading the synopsis for Salmon Fishing, I genuinely thought it would be one of those films that appealed the most to someone like myself. The slow-burner flick that places emphasis on the characters and their development while the simple plot is progressed and concluded at the end of its shorter run-time. In the most extreme examples, something like Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy or the film that makes jury duty invigorating, 12 Angry Men – these grade-A films manage to enthrall the viewer with its phenomenal writing and intriguing characters while having arguably some of the simplest plot synopsises in film history (ie. so a couple walk around a beautiful city for three films and 12 jurors are stuck debating a murder case…)
While Salmon Fishing is heightened with its cast of brilliantly talented actors and hysterical British humour, it ultimately falls flat with its vast pacing issues and (I hate to say it) rather unlikable characters. Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor give delightful performances despite the predictability of where their characters would end up from the getgo and strange reasonings for why their respective relationships fall apart – Alfred’s wife Mary (Rachael Stirling) neglects to tell him when she’s going on a work trip and wants him to keep his comfy government job because it’s fantastic money for working in the frigging Ministry Of Fisheries. Harriet, who kicks all the ass with her financial advising, and her boyfriend Robert (Tom Milson) have dated for 3 weeks and he must go to war so she and Alfred can bond over their mutual troubles. I understand the various intricacies involved with relationships and of course I’m aware that my condensed version isn’t the only reason for them to have issues. Unfortunately the combined charisma of Blunt and McGregor wasn’t enough for me to give any kind of care for their characters and their journey to getting together. I’d also like to reiterate on that pacing issue as this film is less than 2 hours long, however it felt painstakingly longer. No amount of beauty emanating from Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt is worth it.
Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) was also a walking Hallmark card. Everything that came out his mouth related to the existential struggle of a person and he was the source of plenty of the cheesiness involved with the film. If anything, Conleth Hill was the standout of the film with his portrayal of Bernard, the lethargic boss of Alfred’s. His “I-am-completely-over-this” face his character had throughout the film and his various quips made me pine for a spinoff where it just shows his everyday experience at the Fisheries Ministry.
Humour Resides Where Men Believe It Resides
The strength of the film lies with those quips that had me laughing out loud. I’d occasionally snap out of the monotonous funk I was in courtesy of the witty dialogue uttered out of Alfred and the hilarious messages between the Prime Minster and his Press Secretary, Patricia (Kristin Scott Thomas). I’m a lover of the dryest of the dry humour (the dryer the better, I always say) and thankfully the humour present in the film made me enjoy it as much as I had.
Lest we forget that disgustingly gorgeous Scottish Highlands backdrop I first noticed in 2012’s Skyfall. Thanks to that James Bond installment, I will now perpetually notice any film where such a lush and beautiful landscape is featured.
If you’re looking for a visually and humorously pleasing film with some stellar actors portraying less than stellar characters, check out Salmon Fishing In The Yemen.
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen receives 2.5/5 Matt Damon heads.