Harriet (Emily Blunt) is a consultant who is working on the behalf of Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) to try and bring the sport of salmon fishing to the Sheikh’s country of the Yemen. Harriet contacts Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) who is a fishery expert to try and make this endeavor possible. Alfred thinks this is ridiculous and tells Harriet as much. It is not until the UK government gets involved to make the project one of goodwill and good press that Alfred is forced to make the project happen or he will be fired. Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) heads up the PR department for the UK and is determined to have the salmon fishing project become a reality.
This is a fun film that is quite hilarious at moments. If you have never seen Ewan McGregor in a comedic role, this is your chance to do so. He has an immense amount wit and sarcasm as Alfred. He is kind of a fish dork who is in a loveless marriage, but this project and Harriet bring him to life. He steals all the scenes he is in, and he has some of the best lines.
Kristin Scott Thomas as Patricia honestly is laugh out loud hilarious. She is the head PR lady for the prime minister and the UK government and takes the job seriously enough that she does not mind embarrassing everyone in her path to get her way. She has some of the best lines in the film, and there is a conversation with her son in the beginning that still has me laughing.
Emily Blunt is also great in her role as Harriet, but does not have a lot of the funny lines in the film. She is a high-powered consultant who is tough at getting what she wants. However, she is portrayed more as a damsel in distress and a victim due to the plot twists in the film.
The major issues that I have with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen are the sub-plots. The Sheikh is met with some resistance by his Yemen countrymen to this project. Some acts of “terrorism” follow the Sheikh to the UK and in his homeland. Harriet has a boyfriend who is shipped off to Afghanistan for a covert operation. He unfortunately turns up missing, sending Harriet into a depression that makes her temporarily give up on the salmon fishing project. These are two sub-plots that detract from the central story. There are also some really “hokey” moments in the film that made me roll my eyes. It is just simply too much to have someone save someone else’s life by using a fly fishing pole. The CGI, when used, also brought the film down a notch as it looked very fake, especially when it is used for the salmon fish.
It is unfortunate that director Lasse Hallstrom and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy chose to keep these pieces of the story in the film. It had the potential to be a very funny and sweet film that could have gotten high ratings from critics. If you try to cram too much into a film, it takes away from the film as a whole. If they had kept to the salmon fishing project and maybe a little love story on the side, the film could have been much better.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not a perfect film, but it has humor enough to still make me laugh thinking about scenes from it today. Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott Thomas absolutely make this film worth seeing. This is the kind of film to see on a day when you need to laugh. Just take the film with a grain of salt as it tries to take itself more seriously than it needs to with acts of terrorism and war. It is an example of a good film that could have been great.
I give Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 3 “Target Sundays” out of 5.