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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - A Review

If you told me that I would enjoy a movie about relocating 10,000 salmon to the Yemen I would have checked your temperature before telling you that you'd have to pay me to watch a fishing movie!

On a normal day I find fish, or fishing or anything about fish only slightly less exuberating as, say, worm farming! Nevertheless, I had caught glimpses of this movie while working (I’m a projectionist) and noticed at once several gleaming things it had going for it:

One – it stars Ewan McGregor, master of the Light Saber and also pro at maintaining a successful acting career post Star Wars.

Two – It’s directed by Lasse Hallstrom, the Swedish Director who gave us such mouth watering “classics” as Chocolat and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

And for the people who care about this sort of thing, I guess a third good point would be the co-starring finesse of Emily Blunt, who to be honest does not quite rank in my list of favourite leading ladies but it might be a selling point to someone…

Salmon Fishing in Yemen is the charming tale of Sheikh Mohammad of Yemen who, loaded with too much money and probably too much misguided faith, fueled by his love of the Western sport of Fly Fishing decides to bring it back to his own desert strewn country.

He has his consultant, a Miss Harriet Chetwood-Talbot (Blunt) approach fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor) on the feasibility of the notion.

Of course Dr. Jones rejects the idea outright, on the grounds that a manned mission to Mars is more likely, but despite his reluctance to be involved the British Government, desperate for some good media coverage of British-Middle East relations, decides the project is of great national importance, and so Dr. Jones finds himself embroiled in the improbable task of relocating 10,000 Salmon from British waters to the Yemen.

This movie, I discovered, has a lot more going for it though than my earlier points.

The script is sated with clever dialogue, light hearted English humor and some great imagery; whether it be castles in Scotland, barren Middle Eastern Canyons or the pond in Albert’s back yard.

Ewan’s portrayal of Dr. Jones is one of a real Scottish gentleman, the kind you would expect to find in a Jane Austen novel. He is sharp, witty and charming in a sort of clumsy polite way, and positively pessimistic. It’s very refreshing. He is appropriate in his behavior toward Miss Chetwood-Talbot to the point of taking half the movie to call her by her first name!

Each character has a journey, they aren’t hollow satellites revolving around a single star, but are flesh and blood individuals with very personal journeys that coalesce with one another's until they reach their common destiny of bringing fish to the Sheikh’s dry land.

Harriet finds herself alone when her boyfriend, Capt. Robert Mayers, is reported missing in action, but in her grief discovers an unexpected friend in the form of Dr. Alfred Jones.

Dr Jones’ however, while participating in a task he thinks is a joke, also has to come to terms with the fact that his marriage is a joke, his wife being more interested in her career than in him. To make matters worse he has fallen in love with dear sweet Harriet but is such a gentleman, he doesn’t do anything about it… well, at least not until his wife leaves him…

And the Sheikh, in his desire to give his country irrigation, agriculture and… er… Salmon… must protect his dream from Islamic fundamentalist extremists who see his flirting with the West as a threat to be extinguished.

And then of course there’s the 10,000 Salmon. Farmed Salmon, bred against their nature in still contained waters, whose ability to swim upstream in their strange new environment comes down to a matter of faith.

Hopefully you see what an amazing mechanism of storytelling this is, as the story of each character is juxtaposed against the story of the Salmon - in the same way that the Salmon must swim against the current and great odds to reach their spawning grounds; Harriet, Dr Jones and the Sheikh must fight against the social currents that rage against them.

You might be tempted to think too that the stage has been set for a typical Hollywood style of justified adultery. But the love story of Harriet and Dr. Jones is a subtle one and doesn’t slam you into the tide of gratuitousness, as Dr. Jones makes it to the end of the movie with his chivalry intact.

This movie also comes complete with an assassination attempt, a terrorist attack, and a duck sandwich. What more is there to be said other than – see this movie!

I give it a 7 out of 10 for being a very clever and surprisingly compelling tale, even if it was about my least favourite fish.

Click Here for a list of more reviews by me!

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