SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN—-charming, low-key romantic drama with some welcome smiles to keep it balanced throughout its calm and civilized 107 minute stay. Bright characters to spend time with, a fanciful but nifty idea, and pleasing to the eye in the bargain.
A liberal-minded Yemeni sheikh (Amr Waked) has a dream-scheme to bring the sport of salmon-fishing to his parched desert region, partially because he’s rich enough to indulge himself, but he also seeks to bring prosperity to his people and strike some bonds of cultural understanding with the West, in this instance Britain, vital in a time of discord between nations. Opposed by radicals, he has the aid and expertise of a fisheries geek (Ewan McGregor) and a government liaison (Emily Blunt). Plans come together, fall apart and renew, old loves fade, new ones flicker, friendships light the way. It’s a witty, gentle, wistful entertainment that, like fly fishing, leaves you feeling connected and refreshed.
Directed by Lasse Hallström, an expert at human-scaled heart-warmers, populated with quirky but recognizable people, he massages wry humor and just-right twinges of sweetness out of the script by Simon Beaufoy, who based it on an epistolary novel of the same name from Paul Torday. A pleasure to watch the interplay between McGregor and Blunt, two winning hands.
Shot in Scotland and Morocco, with Quarzazate in the Atlas Mountains subbing for off-limits Yemen, the scenic locations bathed clean in lensing by cinematographer Terry Stacey. Well scored by Dario Marianelli.
Reviews tended to positive, but for the usual odd spoilsports carping about the stories unlikelihood. Sure, let’s have more destruction and discord: there’s not enough ‘truth’ hitting us constantly from every direction to sufficiently satisfy those who think hope and happiness are fools errands. Hallström’s resume includes The Cider House Rules, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Chocolat and The Shipping News, so if those warm and shiny nuggets put you off, you won’t buy this one. I liked all of them, and fell for this without hesitation.
Costing $14,400,000, it pulled an okay $32,600,000; deserved better. From 2011, with Kristen Scott Thomas (having fun being snarky), Racheal Stirling and Tom Mison. As to the tiresome nay sayers, we serve an apt quote from McGregor: “I fight cynicism. It’s too easy. It’s really boring. It’s much harder to be positive and see the wonder of everything. Cynicism is a bunch of people who aren’t as talented as other people, knocking them because they make them feel even more untalented.” Good on you, mate.