Director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life As A Dog, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) is back in top form with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the first pure delight of 2012; it's a movie that makes you feel good about going to the movies again. Working from a sweet and richly crafted script by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty), this breezy, offbeat romantic comedy watches a Middle Eastern Sheik enlist an English fisheries expert enlisted to make his dream of bringing fly fishing to the desert come true. With a never-better Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt in the leads, Salmon Fishing is a smart, winning and comic, if at times bittersweet, treat. It should have wide appeal to audiences looking for laughs and whimsy and will win strong word of mouth if CBS Films handles this release with tender loving care.
As the amusingly named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, Blunt helps a Middle Eastern Sheik (Amr Waked) fulfill his madcap dream of salmon fishing in his desert home. To do this she enlists a by-the-numbers fisheries official, Fred Jones (McGregor), who's naturally against the idea of building a river in the VERY dry desert but the scheme is none-the-less put in motion by PR whiz Patricia Maxwell (an over-the-top Kristin Scott Thomas), who intrigues the Parliament which convinces the Prime Minister this is the perfect international goodwill mission. As Talbot and Jones get deeper into the effort to bring the fish over, they become ‘fish out of water' too, particularly as an attraction blooms; he's married and she has a boyfriend fighting in Afghanistan.
The poignant relationship that develops between McGregor and Blunt is realistic and touching, even if you aren't sure they should be together. Things get complicated for both, particularly when Harriet's boyfriend hits the scene. Although they don't necessarily underplay it, the two make you believe their actions: as the uptight fisheries expert, McGregor is just nerdy enough to make the portrayal work but attractive enough to make you think Blunt's character could fall for him. Blunt, as always, is a delectable screen presence and both make a terrific screen team. As the dreamer Sheik, Waked is so droll and perfectly cast he nearly steals the picture from both stars. Scott-Thomas is always welcome and surely had fun with her outlandish PR Exec, but her tone veers closer to broad comedy than it does the whimsical style of Beaufoy's adaptation of the Paul Torday novel. The precise direction of Hallstrom makes this film evocative of other classically whimsical comedies, like Burt Lancaster's underappreciated Local Hero.
Overall, this is one to see.
Distributor: CBS Films
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas, Rachael Stirling, Tom Mison
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Screenwriter: Simon Beaufoy
Producer: Paul Webster
Rating: PG-13 for some violence, Sexual Content and brief language.
Running Time: 107 min.
Release Date: March 9 ltd.