Salmon Fishing In the Yemen (2011)

Posted: October 7, 2012 in Comedy, Drama
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The British military has  blown up a mosque in Afghanistan.  Liaison to the British Prime Minister, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) needs a story of Arab-Anglo cooperation to get this bad news off the front pages.  She hears about an Arab Sheikh named Mohammed (Amir Waked) who wants to build a spawning ground for salmon to breed in Yemen, so that he can fish in this man made lake. Harriet (Emily Blunt) who handles the investments of Sheikh Mohammad, assures everyone involved that the Sheikh will pay millions of dollars to make his dream a reality.  Scottish fisheries expert, Alfred Jones (Ewen McGregor) is quite sure based on his knowledge of salmon and the arid climes of Yemen, that this idea will never work.  After being threatened with the loss of his job by his superiors, Fred gets on board with the idea and flies to Scotland to meet with the Sheikh.  Harriet, meanwhile, learns that her boyfriend, Captain Robert Myers (Tom Mison) is missing in action, but makes the trip with Fred to the sheikh’s estate in Scotland.  There the sheikh waxes poetic about the wonders of salmon fishing, Fred realizes that the Sheik is not some crazy oil billionaire but a reasonable and spiritual person.  The sheikh toasts at the end of an opulent dinner, “to fish and faith.” To which Fred reluctantly adds, “and science.” But each day Fred spends in Yemen, he starts to believe that this crazy project might work, not for any scientific reason, but because his faith in the project is growing

But there are fundamentalists in the sheik’s inner circle who think that by bringing fly fishing to Yemen and by consorting with Westerners, the sheik is going against the will of God.  They plan an assassination attempt against him.  While the sheikh faces danger, Fred and Harriet become closer as their time in Yemen continues.  Fred is in a loveless marriage, and Harriet is sure that Robert is dead, so naturally their feelings for each other grow.  But Patricia Maxwell has a surprise for everyone.  What is Patricia’s surprise?  Does the assassination plot come to fruition?  Do Fred and Harriet’s love for each other grow?  Or does Fred return to his loveless marriage?
This is quite a wonderful movie not only about fishing, and love, but also about faith.  The sheikh has a beautiful soliloquy about the virtues of fishing.  Fishermen don’t care about race he says, they only care about the fish, the water, and the game the fisherman and fish play with each other.  As a fisherman myself, I know I revel in the beauty and simplicity of nature, and fishing allows me to commune with that beauty. This movie speaks to that beauty in a spiritual, not necessarily a religious way.  That’s what sets this movie apart from the typical romantic comedy, it speaks to more than just the relationship between Fred and Harriet, it speaks to an awakening faith in Fred, more a gut feeling than a religious awakening, that miracles can happen if a person believes in something strongly enough.  It is a very funny movie to boot, not in a broad, slapstick way, but more in a subtle and genteel way.  Some of the subplots, namely the assassination plot and the missing British soldier seems contrived, but that hardly detracts from the central themes of this films. The performances are outstanding, Ewan McGregor is one of my favorite actors, especially in flights of fancy such as this movie and Big Fish, he is an extraordinary whether in an underestimated role like here or a hero role, like Obi Wan in the later Star Wars movies, he can play both with equal aplomb.  Bravo to Amir Waked for a wonderful performance as a man who is perfectly reasonable in his  outlook despite his oversized dream of bringing salmon fishing to an arid part of the world.  Bravo to the writers for not making him another one dimensional Arab stereotype.  Since I’ve read that Waked is the “Arab George Clooney” I hope he gets many varied roles to play in the future.  Emily Blunt gives a sweet, sensitive performance as Harriet, her comedic timing and chemistry  with McGregor is excellent.  But the movie is absolutely stolen by Kristen Scott Thomas, her acerbic wit and acid tongue made me laugh out loud several times, who knew she had such an excellent comedic performance in her?  I’m used to seeing her in ultra-serious movies like the English Patient.  A great performance.  For the most part this movie has very good writing as well, by the writer of Slumdog Millionaire.  The cinematography is breathtaking, Scotland and Morocco look incredible, like postcards.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  Take a flier on this fly fishing fantasy.
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