Saturday, March 31, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I See Salmon There!

With a title like Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, it's either a story about the impossible, or that which deals with fishing. It's thankfully the former which makes it a little more engaging and less of a focus on what could be a solitary activity, and a romance-comedy-drama that centers about the theme of hope, even though this British film has plenty of elements to keep one entertained, especially the good ol British wit and humour that comes fast and furious when the need calls for it.

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom whose last film was an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' Dear John, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is based on the novel by Paul Torday, that tells the unlikely romance that sparked between Dr Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) and investment consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) while working on a theoretically possible project funded by a rich Yemeni Sheikh Muhammad (Amr Waked). Dr Jones, the bureaucrat stuck in a dead end job and happily coasting along in spite of having useless superiors, is the initial skeptic, preferring the status quo than to question and set challenges for himself, being the expert on fishing and a mean fly-fisher himself, while Harriet is that can-do go-getting consultant who doesn't take no for an answer, herself in a sub story arc involving a British soldier sent to the frontlines in Afghanistan.

Together, they work under a programme mooted by the Sheikh to bring salmon fishing to his country, which of course has plenty of detractors especially from extremists who see this as a waste of resources spent on infidel activities involving the West, especially so since Kristin Scott-Thomas' thrash talking Bridget Maxwell, the publicist for 10 Downing Street, sees it as opportunity to raise the Anglo-Yemeni friendship and profile. The character of Bridget Maxwell is probably the one bringing in most of the laughs for her potty mouth ways, with expletives almost always finding their way into her communications, verbal, over the internet, or otherwise, and you'd wonder just how the Prime Minister's Office could have survived one PR disaster after another.

Most of the narrative circled around the friendship and relations formed between the trio of Dr Jones, Harriet and the Sheikh, developing bonds that wouldn't have existed if not for this 50 million pounds project. It's not as if it is about those with plenty of oil money and finding themselves not knowing what to do with it, but about the spreading of far larger ideals that go into community bonding. And the romantic tale almost felt like an after thought into the second half, finding it irresistable not to have now fellow colleagues fall in love because it's a waste of good looking talent not to. There isn't any threat in the film to put things in a spin other than the battle against nature and elements that get systematically addressed, and extremists who don't get air time lest this film gets spun into a war on terror story, aside from an assassination and sabotage attempt.

It's been too long since Ewan McGregor played an Englishman, and one with impeccable manners at that, which is something his character will strike you from the onset, minding his Ps and his Qs, with the penchant for the prim and the proper. The subplot involving a slowly estranged wife was something seen coming since it stood in the way of a possible relationship with Emily Blunt's Harriet, and essentially is a weak point in the narrative that could have been done without, since it added little emotional depth to the plot. Harriet on the other hand had an equally tit-for-tat plot arc that also didn't do wonders for the story, and together they made it feel as if there was a need to throw each character into their respective romance (or lack thereof) arcs with someone else until work got in the way. It didn't help of course when Kristin Scott-Thomas was in her element being cast against type.

ultimately it's a feel good movie about hope and that leap of faith, so long as someone is funding a dream to fruition or failure. The more important central arc of fulfilling the titular dream was the most engaging, with sub plots being nothing more than a distraction that didn't offer any emotional depth, and padded the story to a feature length one. Thankfully there's comedy thrown in now and then, otherwise this would really have been like a solo fishing trip and attempt that calls for plenty of patience for something to finally bite.

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