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film review: salmon fishing in the yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is the story of three very different people who take on a rather unusual project. The wealthy Sheikh Mohammed (Amr Waked) is determined to spend his fortune setting up salmon fishing in the Yemen. When his representative Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) approaches scientist Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) about the idea, Alfred scoffs and declares it to be both pointless and impossible. However, the British government is in desperate need of some good PR in the Middle East and is determined for the idea to come to fruition. To keep his job, Alfred must work with Harriet to turn this bizarre idea into a reality.

The project progresses and Alfred and Harriet bond at the Sheikh’s Scottish estate. As Alfred begins to see something unexpected in the Sheikh and his seemingly crazy idea, things take a turn for the worse in both his personal life and Harriet’s. Alfred’s marriage is on its last legs and Harriet’s boyfriend is missing in action in Afghanistan. They find hope in each other and the project, but there are still plenty of obstacles in the way of their goal. When they reach Yemen, they find that the Sheikh’s project and its Western values have angered some locals. It seems that it might just be a crazy idea after all, but the project has brought so much to its backers that they are determined to keep trying.

The three British stars really make this strange-sounding film into something special: McGregor is hilarious and likeable as Alfred, and his chemistry with Blunt is lovely and real. Their story is one that is very easy to get involved in, despite the obvious cliché of exasperated first impressions becoming something much more tender. Kristin Scott Thomas is hilarious in her role as the brash press secretary to the Prime Minister, and she really adds to the story as a whole.

There are moments that do seem just slightly too unlikely and corny- but the film’s ultimate message is to take a chance on things that seem impossible, so the viewer is reminded not to give in to their own scepticism. In this way, the film challenges you in the same way that its characters are challenged. The dry humour that dominates particularly the first half of the film indicates that it’s not meant to be taken too seriously, and is a perfect complement to the somewhat strange storyline.

There is one other part of the movie that doesn’t quite work.  The cultural clash encountered by the group as they bring their project to Yemen seems to be skimmed over and is more of a plot device than a focus. This is complex territory and it doesn’t really fit with the light-hearted nature of the rest of the movie.

As a whole though, the movie is uplifting, warm and human. It is also really, really funny. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is perfect for a rainy day, or just any day that you feel like you need a bit of inspiration.

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