Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a supposedly feel good British rom-com, but it’s easy on the rom and weak on the com.
The film is as implausible as its title, and although it comes with quite an impressive pedigree, it comes up short. It is directed by Lasse Hallström, the man behind Dear John and Chocolat, it’s written by Simon Beaufoy the pen behind scripts for The Full Monty, the Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire and the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours, it is based on the 2006 bestseller by Paul Torday and stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and the always watchable Kristin Scott Thomas.
Yet somehow the filmmakers have only conspired to land a tiddler rather than a whopper. A shame considering that one feels the potential for cinematic success was t-h-i-s big.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen so desperately wants to be an amusing clash of cultures but just feels considerably less than the sum of its parts.
The film centres on a wild scheme to introduce Scottish salmon, and salmon fishing to the Yemen, a plan from the brain of a local fishing-mad sheikh (played by Amr Waked). Unencumbered by financial constraints he requests a damn be built in the Yemen which will produce a lake and then to fill it with thousands of fish. To help him in his endeavour he hires Emily Blunt’s, Harriet, a consultant come aid who in turn turns to Dr Fred Jones, (Ewan McGregor) a fish and fisheries expert who is dragged on board by Scott Thomas’s government press secretary, Patricia Maxwell, who tries to spin the endeavour into a “good will” story of Anglo-Arab co-operation to hopefully distract British voters from bad news coming out of the middle east,
At this stage should have been set for a highly satirical comedy or at the very least an engaging romance against ridiculously surreal backdrop however Salmon Fishing in the Yemen misses the mark on both counts. The funny just isn’t funny enough, although the novel is apparently very satirical the filmmakers seem to have gone for more slapstick and obvious jokes than a serious political satire.
The opportunity is there, the title is a wonderfully absurd set up, the political machinations of trying to create the impossible could have been given a great comedy spin and the leads are all accomplished actors at both comedy and drama.
But it just refuses to bite…
Sadly the funniest thing about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is the fact that the Yemen tourist board has been forced to issue a statement to the effect that there is no salmon fishing available in the Yemen, after a surge of interest due to this film. I feel that anybody expecting to see a laugh out loud romantic comedy or anyone expecting to fish some wild salmon in the Yemen will be equally disappointed.