Hooked on joy fac­tor

Is witty and won­der­ful, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

T’S not of­ten you see Ewan Mc­gre­gor play­ing a stuffy, hu­mour­less Scot­tish nerd, but he does it re­mark­ably well in Salmon Fish­ing in the Ye­men. Ev­ery­thing about Fred’s life is mun­dane. He’s a gov­ern­ment fish­eries sci­en­tist who’s trapped in a spark­less mar­riage and is the kind of guy who gets ex­cited about pic­tures of cad­dis­flies and spi­ders.

This dull, do­mes­tic life is sud­denly interrupted when a charis­matic sheikh (Amr Waked) and his le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive Har­riet Chet­wode-tal­bot (Emily Blunt) ap­pear in his life with a lu­di­crous plan to in­tro­duce salmon to the wadis of the Ye­men.

Fred nat­u­rally thinks the project is ab­surd, but the Prime Min­is­ter’s spokes­woman, Pa­tri­cia Maxwell (played hi­lar­i­ously by Kristin Scott Thomas), be­lieves oth­er­wise. She’s des­per­ate for a good PR story from the Mid­dle East to dis­tract from Afghanistan war dis­as­ters and when she hears of the sheikh’s plan, it be­comes a ‘‘pri­or­ity project’’, with a dis­grun­tled Fred put in charge.

While the plot doesn’t sound too com­pelling, Salmon Fish­ing in the Ye­men is a joy to watch, thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of won­der­ful per­for­mances and witty, bit­ing di­a­logue by screen­writer Si­mon Beau­foy ( Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire).

It’s hard not to like Mc­gre­gor’s Fred, as you see him emerge from his shell, with dry cyn­i­cism giv­ing way to op­ti­mism as he be­gins to fall in love with the project and Blunt’s Har­riet.

He finds a brother from an­other mother in the sheikh, a man who shares his pas­sion for fish­ing and be­lieves that bring­ing it to his coun­try will foster peace, although his coun­try­men don’t al­ways agree.

Blunt, as al­ways, lights up the screen as the gen­tle Har­riet, whose bliss­ful life dat­ing an army cap­tain is thrown into dis­ar­ray when he is sent to Afghanistan and re­ported ‘‘miss­ing in ac­tion’’. But even with Har­riet’s de­spair, di­rec­tor Lasse Hall­strom ( Cho­co­lat, The Cider House Rules) stops the film from ever feel­ing de­pres­sive, as Har­riet finds un­ex­pected so­lace through her friend­ship with Fred and the work in Ye­men.

Part of this light­ness is also thanks to the com­edy, which is pep­pered through­out, but comes in big hand­fuls through Scott Thomas’s bril­liant por­trayal of the sharp-tongued PR spokesper­son. Her char­ac­ter also gives you an in­sight into how the cogs of the po­lit­i­cal pub­lic­ity wheels turn – how things are planned to put politi­cians in a good light or get vot­ers on­side.

There’s an op­ti­mism that floods Salmon Fish­ing in the Ye­men and, like Fred, you find your­self won over by this sweet, feel­good movie.

opens to­day.

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