Feel- good fish tale
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN ( M)
Director: Lasse Hallstrom ( Chocolat ) Stars: Ewan Mcgregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked
Salmon with slice of Yemen
A BRITISH romcom celebrating the solitary art of fly- fishing set against the arid backdrop of a war- torn Middle East?
As far as preposterous premises go, it’s right up there with an Oscar- winning underdog story about a games show winner from the Mumbai slums.
So it doesn’t come as a complete surprise to discover that Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is written by the same man who penned the screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire.
Simon Beaufoy, who also reworked the grim plight of Sheffield steel workers into a life- affirming comedy in The Full Monty, gently challenges our regional prejudices in this nicely- judged adaptation of Paul Torday’s novel of the same name.
When fisheries expert Dr Alfred Jones ( Ewan Mcgregor) confuses the Republic of Yemen with Iraq in his dismissive introduction to financial consultant Harriet Chetwode- Talbot ( Emily Blunt), she quietly points out that the oil- rich country is located at the southwestern tip of the Arabian peninsula, some distance from its imploding neighbour.
In a part of the world more commonly associated with religious fanaticism, Chetwode- Talbot’s wealthy client, Sheik Muhammed ( Syriana’s Amr Waked), is a progressive liberal.
Having spent a large part of his fortune on a dam to irrigate the dry heart of his country, the avid fly fisherman dreams of populating the waterways with Atlantic salmon.
Despite the seeming folly of this enterprise, it’s quickly seized upon by Patricia Maxell ( Kristin Scott Thomas), a hard- nosed press secretary to the British PM, who is desperate for a good news story in the region.
And that’s where Mcgregor’s dour, Presbyterian salmon- fishing enthusiast comes in. He’s entrusted with bringing the harebrained scheme to fruition.
Initially scornful of the Sheik’s vision, the tweed- suited public servant is slowly won over by his obvious integrity and Chetwode- Talbot’s quick- witted charm.
The unlikely nature of this blossoming odd- couple romance is further complicated by her soldier boyfriend, missing in action in Afghanistan.
Sharp, funny dialogue delivered with assurance by Blunt, Mcgregor and Scott Thomas allows Salmon Fishing In The Yemen to swim upstream, against the Judd Apatow- led US tide of bloke- driven romances. In so doing, it replenishes a thirsty genre.
This is director Lasse Hallstrom’s best film since Casanova ( 2005), starring Heath Ledger.
Now showing State and Village cinemas
FLYING HIGH: Amr Waked and Ewan Mcgregor are well cast in the gentle Salmon Fishing In The Yemen.