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Salmon Fishing In The Yemen - DVD Review

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

EWAN McGregor and Emily Blunt make an appealing couple in Lasse Hallstrom’s Salmon Fishing in The Yemen but they can’t compensate for the many shortcomings of this terribly uneven film.

Based on the popular novel by Paul Torday, the film attempts to juggle elements of romantic comedy-drama, political satire and global commentary in a manner that often feels clumsy and a little too close to home.

When a billionaire Arab sheik (Amr Waked) concocts a plan to bring salmon to the Yemen for competitive game fishing, his London-based assistant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt) is tasked with getting fisheries agency expert Dr Alfred ‘Fred’ Jones (McGregor) onside.

Though initially reluctant, Fred is coerced into making the plan work by his boss and the bullish publicist of the UK Prime Minister (Kristin Scott Thomas), who sees the salmon project as an opportunity for some good PR to emerge from the volatile Middle East.

As happenstance would also have it, Fred is trapped in a loveless marriage to an ambitious businesswoman (Rachael Stirling), while Harriet has just waved her three-week old boyfriend (Tom Mison) off to service in Afghanistan. It’s only a matter of time before the pair’s initial disdain for each other turns into admiration and, eventually, romance.

With so many elements to juggle from the novel, it’s little wonder that Hallstrom’s film often has trouble doing so, particularly given the changes he has also made. But it’s only really during the romance between McGregor and Blunt that it really works and where, you suspect, its heart really lies.

At other moments, the film comes a cropper because of a sloppy approach to its satire and its harder hitting elements. Thomas’ publicist, for instance, is a pale shadow of Peter Capaldi’s Malcom Tucker from In The Loop (the benchmark for such figures) and lacks the consistent bite or even likeability needed to make her character anything other than irritating.

While attempts at referencing the ongoing suffering of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the effect their absence has on the home front, feels out of place with the kooky comedic tone that the film generally strives to maintain.

Mixing fishing metaphors with religion and spirituality also feels silly, while occasional sequences (such as a botched assassination attempt) also feel clumsily put together.

It’s a shame given the strength of the performances from McGregor (affable despite a dodgy variation on his Scottish accent) and Blunt (as charming as ever in the way she mixes sex appeal with vulnerability at various points).

But in the main, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is so tonally uneven that even their best efforts can’t save it from feeling like it needs casting off for some better treatment.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 111mins
UK Blu-ray & Release: September 3, 2012