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Salmon Fishing Unique and Successful

Alex Kilpatrick | Thursday, April 12, 2012

While a British romance celebrating the sport of fly-fishing in a dry desert Middle Eastern climate may seem preposterous, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” has everything a good dramedy should, from religious and political discussion, to international affairs, to a preponderance of salmon.

Ewan McGregor portrays Fred Jones, a British government fisheries expert who is approached by international consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (played by Emily Blunt) to assist in a project to introduce the traditionally Western sport of salmon fishing to the desert country of Yemen.

Harriet represents the liberally minded and wealthy Yemeni sheikh Muhammed (portrayed by Amr Waked), who commissions the project in order to improve Anglo-Arab relations.

Although Fred seems dubious of the plausibility of the project, considering the Yemen’s dry arid climate and general lack of proper conditions for salmon to thrive, as well as the astronomical amount of money and resources necessary to fund the project, he eventually agrees to advise Harriet and Sheikh Muhammed. As to be expected in almost any dramedy, a predictable romance eventually buds between Fred and Harriet.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays the high-strung Prime Minister’s press secretary Patricia Maxwell, who must find a Middle East story “without explosions.”

She hits the jackpot when she discovers the news of Sheikh Muhammed’s budding salmon fishing project. Director Lasse Hallstrom sets the movie up as a feel-good international affairs drama, but it quickly becomes apparent the story is much more complicated.

A side plot runs parallel to the main plot’s idealistic expectations of Anglo-Arab cooperation and portrays Harriet’s paramour Robert (played by Tom Mison) going missing in action in the War in Afghanistan. Hallstrom juxtaposes the war against the cooperation between Sheikh Muhammed and the British government.

Hallstrom also occasionally dabbles in religious discussions. Sheikh Muhammed questions Fred when the self-proclaimed man of science claims to be an atheist.

The sheikh uses fishing as an analogy for religion at one point in the film, explaining to Fred anyone willing to wait for a fish to bite for hundreds of hours on end must have some semblance of faith.

Aside from the predictable romantic development and several lulls in the film’s pace, the movie is an excellent British romantic dramedy that covered everything from international affairs to religion to the science of salmon fishing, offering a different look at a region of the world typically portrayed as troubled.