Making its debut this weekend on Showtime was last year’s “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”, starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” tells the story of two people involved in trying to introduce salmon to the Yemen River, at the behest of a wealthy Sheikh in the region. McGregor plays a an expert who initially decries the effort as unfeasible, but who slowly comes around to the possibility. He and Blunt have to work through the difficulties of both the project and their romantic lives.
It’s a lightweight little movie that won’t ask much of you over its runtime, but its optimism, combined with the charm of the leads, make it an enjoyable watch.
When a wealthy Sheikh envisions introducing salmon fishing to his Arab country, he asks his financial services firm to investigate the possibilities on his behalf. Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), a representative of the firm, contacts government fishery expert Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) to lead the project. Jones insists that such a thing is impossible. There are far too many environmental factors working against the idea, the river is simply not suitable for sustaining salmon. The Prime Minister’s office (represented by Kristin Scott Thomas in the film) gets wind of the project, however, and puts their might behind it. They’re desperate for a favorable news item to highlight positive Anglo-Arab relations. So, in spite of the fact that he’s expressed an extensive inventory of obstacles, Jones finds himself assigned to introduce salmon into a desert clime.
Sheikh Muhammad, the man behind the project, turns out to be a charismatic, intelligent individual, who’s quite persuasive. He’s an enormous fan of fishing, and feels that introducing salmon fashion to the region would be a boon for his people. Eventually, his passion for the project begins to rub off on Jones, who slowly turns from a skeptic to a believer.
Jones and Chetwode-Talbot each happen to be in difficult positions romantically when the story begins. Jones’ relationship with his wife is strained, and she accepts a work assignment abroad just as the salmon project commences. Chetwode-Talbot’s boyfriend is shipped off to Afghanistan by the military. When he’s listed as missing in action, she turns to Jones for comfort. Eventually the two are faced not only with the difficulties inherent in introducing a species of fish to an inhospitable climate, but with their burgeoning feelings for each other.
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is a lightweight romance, with a dash of geo-political commentary thrown in. There are obvious allegories to be made between the introduction of a non-native species of fish and the longstanding cultural and political tampering of the Western World in the region. In fact, the movie has some outright commentary on it, it’s not entirely subtext.
It certainly isn’t heavy-handed, however, in fact there’s not a lot of heavy lifting to be had here at all. Blunt and McGregor are charming leads, but the film doesn’t ask either of them to go too far out of their comfort zones. This is a small-scale “charmer” with romantic undertones that’s not going to ask too much of the audience or its cast. Instead, it tells a hopeful tale about fish, possibilities, and global relations, and winds up being a decent, if not very substantive watch.