Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Ewan McGregor attempts to explain what happens to a fish in the desert.Photo: CBS Films
5 StarsWhy I Saw It: Adore Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, and utterly Smitten with Lasström (top ten easily ~ maybe five).
What I Thought: Uplifting, inspiring, quick-witted, lively, and simply not to be missed.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Dir. Lasse Hallström. Perf. Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas. CBS Films, 2012.

A impassioned Yemeni sheik enlists the assistance of the British government in bringing salmon fishing to his arid land, in hopes of enhancing the lives and diversifying the economy of his people.

With Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) bestow upon us their gift of blending absurdity with vision, affectionate ribbing with cooperation, cultural expectation with personal calling, and life’s disappointment with clear-eyed optimism.

Despite dealing with the very serious milieu of war, political ambition and spin, international cultural strain, and a global community that seems utterly bent on strife, Salmon Fishing vibes on the same wavelength as Calendar Girls in its bright, relaxed, yet highly driven air. Its visionary leader, ambitious press secretary, savvy project manager, and staid fisheries expert dance, bob, and weave with their respective communities of political rivals, fanatical fishermen (aka the “obsessed crazies”), and incredulous befuddled townsfolk, creating a riotous blend of activity as each pursues this crazy idea that seems to be taking shape despite reason.

Performances are spot-on, and the cast enjoy utterly superb chemistry in every combination. Amr Waked in particular impresses mightlily, as his sheik is able to reach into every nuance, every concern, and thereby eleveate the entire endeavor, both for our characters and for ourselves. The script is tight, packed with hilarity, and balanced perfectly between comedy and its dramatic, even poignant, moments.

And Salmon‘s “whys” will stick with you for a good while. It’s been seven weeks since I saw it, and it’s taken up residence in my heart. (Note: that’s not a sappy, Notebook-style observation; more akin to, say, The King’s Speech.) In true Hallström fashion, we show up for a situation, and come away with a life.

See it if: You enjoyed The Shipping News and/or The Full Monty. The delightful explorations of each kiss the themes of Salmon Fishing, in equally heartwarming and equally dissimilar measure.

Skip it if: Gosh… no reason at all to skip it. Unless you’re momentarily in dire need of high-intensity action (in which you already have The Hunger Games on the calendar ~ or have just finished sleeping it off….) But once you settle down, be sure to come back.

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