Salmon Fishing in the Yemen can seem off putting at first with its vague title and rom-com styled trailer. The previews given lead the audience to believe that the movie follows the basic motivational plotline and offers little else than a rushed love story to bring it all together. What the trailer doesn’t show is the masterful directing by Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) and the clever writing of Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) which both offer up everything they have, allowing Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, and Amr Waked to shine as our leads. This movie is far more than what the previews at the movies let you believe. I would even argue that it’s one of the best movies of the year so far.
Salmon Fishing stars Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor as a consultant and a government worker who must come together to make a Sheikh’s (played by Amr Waked) dream of bringing salmon fishing to his home country, the Yemen, possible. McGregor plays the dull, snarky Fred who for at the least first act is quite the pessimist. Blunt then stars as Harriet who works for a firm that cares the Sheikh’s interests and she is practical and classy throughout, though at times very naïve. Amr Waked steals the show whenever he appears on camera as the Sheikh whose wisdom and care for those around him is both genuine and unbelievable. Together this motely crew must figure out how to bring over 10,000 salmon to practically the desert, an unlikely but ‘theoretically possible’ feat.
Beaufoy’s writing is remarkable in this piece. He covers everything from sarcastic and funny humor to real, heart wrenching loss and anger to hope and intimacy. At times the plot calls for scientific explanations and even some Mandarin, but Beaufoy’s doesn’t simply toss words around for fun, but carefully chooses each line in order to make it count for the most it can. The story lacked any discontinuity or plot holes and even though everything fell into place and made sense, nothing was truly predictable. With every minute you were sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what would happen next, but in a way that you were excited to wait because you knew the suspense would pay off.
The acting by McGregor, Blunt and Waked is also a factor in this film’s brilliance. McGregor’s character Fred was a walking paradox in that he was the most straight-laced and monotone character in the film, but also delivered the funniest lines throughout. His acting was so effective, however, that the viewer didn’t believe anything to be wrong with this and actually was made to appreciate the way that McGregor was able to portray such a complex character so easily. Fred also made the most emotional and spiritual progress in the film, something McGregor played out perfectly. All of his emotions were believable and able to be identified with without being over done. Blunt shined as well with her character Harriet. Harriet is the calmer of the two and although she doesn’t go through much spiritual change, she deals heavily with grief throughout the film. This was really a shining role for Blunt who embraced her character’s deepest emotions and vulnerabilities and made them her own. She too made her character as realistic possible and showed how complicated the human heart is, but also have you have to follow it. Waked is an absolute treat here and is hard to take your eyes off when he appears. His character is so calm, wise and one with everything around him and Waked embraced all of these traits and brings this character (who is inspired by a real Sheikh) to life on the big screen. Everything from his voice to his mannerisms to his way of moving is fluid and vivid in its own way and just wonderful to watch.
Overall, this movie was just an excellent script written by an excellent writer with an excellent director and an excellent cast. Together, all of these elements balanced romance, humor and inspiration effortlessly in this film and made it a movie that is as enjoyable to watch, as it is easy. This is not the moving mountains rom-com that has been presented to you, but apiece that will truly lift your spirits and make you laugh whole-heartedly throughout. Take it from someone who was skeptical, you do not want to miss this film!
Review by Kassandra Porcaro