Salmon Fishing in the Yemen-2011
Starring-Ewing McGregor, Emily Blunt
Scott’s Review #1,152
Reviewed June 15, 2021
Despite exceptional chemistry between leads Ewing McGregor and Emily Blunt, who were also bankable stars in 2011, the romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (2011) is predictable, dull, and lacks a good identity. It is the feel-good film of the year and that is not meant as a compliment.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s above par as compared to the usual drivel emerging from one of my least favorite dramas, the rom-com, but it should offer more than the by-the-numbers plot it churns out. Someone either felt lazy or was instructed to create a banal film.
With good actors and fabulous locales, I expected more edge from Swedish director, Lass Hallstrom. But, alas, we get something merely adequate.
Doctor Alfred Jones (McGregor) is a fisheries scientist who one day receives an unusual request from a strong businesswoman named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt). She wants his help in fulfilling a request from a wealthy sheik played by Amr Waked who wants to bring sport fishing to Yemen.
Jones declines at first, but when the British prime minister’s spokeswoman (Kristin Scott Thomas) latches on to the project as a way to improve Middle East relations, he joins in. Romance blooms as Jones and Harriet work to make the sheik’s dream come true.
If this brief synopsis sounds like it’s taken from a novel that’s because it is and it is as straightforward as you can imagine. The film is based on a 2007 novel which certainly must have been better than the film.
Let’s be fair and clear. McGregor and Blunt are as good as they can be with the material they are given and they succeed in bringing some life to the big screen. The trouble is there isn’t very far to go with their characters. Harriet is a businesswoman with a task at hand. Alfred is a handsome doctor with something she needs. Did I mention he’s a doctor?
Harriet’s romantic interest is hardly a surprise and Hallstrom puts nary any real obstacles in their path towards getting together. The fact that early in the film Harriet is dating British Special Forces Captain Robert Meyers played by Tom Mison and Alfred is married to a woman named Mary (Rachael Stirling) is laughable after Robert is quickly killed off and Mary is sent away to Geneva for a conference. Predictably, Alfred and Mary realize their marriage is over.
But wait, there’s more! Robert resurfaces from the dead alive and well. Harriet struggles with her emotions and quickly realizes that her feelings for him have changed leaving her to be with Alfred.
The setup for Harriet and Alfred is as predictable as what peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will taste like.
Poor Kristin Scott Thomas, a fantastic actor is reduced to playing the cliched role of Public Relations Patricia Maxwell. She straightforwardly plays her as aggressive, impatient, and bitchy. The performance doesn’t work well.
Second, to the sweetness of McGregor and Blunt, the locales are thankfully plentiful. Visits to London, Scotland, and Morocco are blessed treats.
A silly subplot of the salmon being removed from British rivers and something about farming goes nowhere and is not worth the effort to go into. Suffice it to say it does little for the film or as a companion to the main plot. The only thing viewers should focus on is Harriet and Alfred’s romantic involvement.
I only recommend Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (2011) for those fans of either McGregor or Blunt or who yearn to escape to a fantasy world with a happily ever after ending.
If one enjoys fishing or fly-fishing (is there a difference?) that may be enough cause to give the film a twirl too.
Otherwise, the film offers nothing that hasn’t been seen countless times before. By the conclusion of the film, I felt weary and bored for so much unchartered potential left on the cutting room floor….or somewhere else.