Lowdown: An unlikely pairing of man and woman taking place when a Yemeni sheik decides on salmon fishing at home.
Perceptions of director Lasse Hallström have been pretty much fixed since his 2000 movie Chocolat. And rightly so: this romantic tale of an unlikely coupling sporting some high class actors sported many a charm, including a good spirit of rebellion that anyone can identify with. I had felt Hallström was pretty much trying to reproduce that same experience with his films since; perhaps in 2011’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen he manages this to the highest fidelity.
Our starting point is the actors, and in this tale about previously coldish and closed British folk the stars are Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. Both, I have to say, are personal favorites of mine (despite the latter taking a major role in a certain abysmal trilogy). Blunt plays Harriet, a posh employee at this high class London company that arranges for things to be done for rich people, while McGregor plays Dr Jones, a Scottish scientist whose entire life is about fish and almost nothing to do with his wife. The two meet when Harriet raises a request on behalf of a Yemeni sheik to receive help in arranging salmon fishing facilities at Yemen, but at Dr Jones’ advice the request is dismissed. Poor feasibility is sighted.
A diplomatic incident in the Middle East raises the initiative’s profile, with the British PM’s media advisor (an excellent Kristin Scott Thomas) picking up on the potential PR here. Dr Jones and Harriet are forced to cooperate, but before they can deal with fish they need to deal with personal obstacles. Like, for example, Harriet’s army boyfriend going MIA. Or simply the general antagonism between the two. [Might I also add the age difference between the two, a point Hollywood likes to ignore?] However, there is nothing like the warmth of Yemen to heat things up until the inevitable sweet conclusion.
The main deliverable here is sugar, in mass quantities. Note I am talking about sugar, not artificial saccharine, because I did find the whole affair positively entertaining. Sure, this is not the most original or thought provoking affair ever – it is just a tale of an unlikely romance that occasionally borders with romcom territory – but it is very well done. How can anything go wrong with such actors? The movie had me right from the start with its repeat introductions of Dr Jones.
Best scene: Dr Jones saves the day (and the sheik) from the clutches of a terrorist from afar using his bare fishing rod.
Overall: Don’t look for depth here and don’t look for anything you haven’t seen before. Just seat back enjoy on a cold winter night. 3 out of 5 stars.