Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 13th May 2012
The ubiquitous Emily Blunt, fresh from The Five Year Engagement, is this time paired with Ewan McGregor in Lasse Hallstrom’s (The Cider House Rules) adaptation of a popular novel that probably seemed like a safe cinematic bet.
McGregor is clearly having fun, playing a buttoned-up scientist whose very forthright Scottish impatience is gently worn down by Blunt’s lovely consultant, pushing her own agenda to introduce salmon fishing to the desert country of the Yemen on behalf of a wealthy sheikh. As thinly drawn as their characters are, when Emily and Ewan first appear together their scenes have a real spark and their budding connection is touching. Doubtless, it’ll be Kristin Scott Thomas who lingers longer in the memory. As the caustic press secretary to the prime minister, she sashays around government offices and Scottish castles, at one stage bellowing at her disobedient children “I’m not one of yo’ bitches from the Baltimore low rises, you feel me?”, blowing cigarette smoke through all her best lines.
Neither the fault of Hallstrom nor talented screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, the subplot veers from convenient to ludicrous, and the whole film has a distinct whiff of the work of Love, Actually director Richard Curtis (not in a good way). It starts with promise, charts the usual odd-couple territory, gets philosophical-lite (with trite musings on “faith” between the atheist scientist and devout sheikh), then winds up getting really rather silly. Audiences will enjoy the bits that work, but it’s a shame the film is not the sum of its parts.