Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Is it Even Possible?

Mention the title of this movie to someone in conversation and the response is generally something like, “Is that even possible?”  Common sense says no, but the movie argues that with a little faith and determination, anything is possible.  It is an excellent message, but it almost gets lost amidst the romance, espionage, and political posturing that overtakes the plot.  There’s a little too much going on here, and the movie probably would have been better served to simply focus on, well, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

The idea of bringing the sport of salmon fishing to the Yemen is that of a Sheikh who hopes the project might strengthen the community in his corner of the Middle East.  Helping him with this project is a dedicated British consultant named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot.  Harriet attempts to recruit a fisheries expert named Fred Jones to help guide the project, but Jones scoffs at the idea as ridiculous and implausible.  He has little say in the matter, however, when the government gets involved, determined that a story like this might help to demonstrate good relations between the United Kingdom and the Middle East.

McGregor as Jones in Salmon Fishing in the YemenOnce in the Yemen, Jones’ cynicism is slowly chipped away by the Sheikh’s contagious optimism and faith.  It helps, too, that the beautiful Harriet is also on this journey.  As expected, a romance begins to develop between the two, despite the fact that they were both involved with others when this project began.  Meanwhile, there are others in the Yemen who completely disagree with the Sheikh’s plan, considering it to be sacrilegious.  Their determination to shut down the project and the British government’s plan to make a major news splash with this story are on a collision course with the pending romance between the two leads, but the big question is: will the salmon run?

I knew that there was a romance at the center of this movie going in, but found myself somewhat surprised when the movie opens with the two leads already involved in relationships with others; he is married, she is in a new relationship.  I guess I figured that with the difficult idea of introducing salmon fishing to the Yemen, the movie would have enough to complicate their relationship with.  Turns out, I was right.  Her boyfriend and his wife are pointless characters that seem forced on the plot.  Her relationship with a soldier who goes MIA in Afghanistan actually stops the movie dead in its tracks at one point.

The subplot involving the men who wish to sabotage the fishing project is not as much of a distraction.  In fact, if anything, it strengthens the drama.  Unfortunately, director Lasse Hallstrom can’t seem to find a way to properly blend it into the plot, making the few times it does show up seem really out of place.  In one key moment, it actually felt as if the projectionist accidentally switched the reel over to an action movie that was supposed to be playing in the neighboring auditorium.

Another odd shift in tone comes when Kristin Scott Thomas, playing the Prime Minister’s public relations adviser, discovers what she believes to be the key piece to her uplifting press story and the soundtrack switches over to something akin to an Irish Jig.  That awkward choice aside, Thomas is far-and-away the best thing about this movie as she steals every single scene that she is in.  As the romantic leads, Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt are good, but Thomas is remarkable.

After seeing this movie, I became convinced that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was indeed possible, only to learn that, no, the movie was not based on a true story.  Nevertheless, there are a few things to like in the movie—I liked the comparison between fishing and faith/religion—but it is far too uneven to be considered a must-see.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is rated PG-13 for “some violence and sexual content, and brief language.”  The flashes of violence and sexual content are very brief, and I remember little of the language as offensive.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.