Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Incidentally, this is post 200!!!! Thanks for reading! I promise to have another Battle Royale soon.

Salmon fishing poster

I would love to have been in the pitch room for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Imagine the look on the faces of numerous studio executives when writers Simon Beaufoy and Paul Torday described their film as a wondrous tale about fishing in the Yemen and so much more. The initial reaction could not have been enthusiastic, or anything beyond bewilderment. However, I must thank the BBC or CBS exec that took a chance because Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a delightful film.



Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is the foremost authority on fisheries in the UK. When he is contacted by Harriet (Emily Blunt) about the possibility of salmon fishing in the Yemen, he scoffs at the absurdity of the idea. Since Harriet is working for the incredibly wealthy and powerful Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked), she is forced to pursue the issue even further until she convinces Fred to help. The project is pushed along by the Prime Ministers publicist* Patricia (Kristin Scott Thomas) who needs to find a positive story about Anglo-Arab relations and decides upon the salmon.

Salmon starts out jumbled. There are three main characters, mentioned above, and each storyline is crucial to the conclusion of the film. However, the way in which each story is presented is puzzling until the fishing project becomes a reality. The film starts fast and hits your with a bombardment of information all at once in thick British accents—it was the first time in a while I actually missed some words due to the accent.

salmon fishing 1

It is interesting to see the personality traits given to the characters, as Dr. Jones is a socially awkward individual who is so entrenched in his “serious” work that he has trouble with normal interactions. Harriet even goes so far as to diagnose him with Asperger’s.

Meanwhile, Harriet is a regression of feminine progress that has been made over the last few years. She may be financially independent and have a successful career, but a man is largely in control of her emotional state—in this case, a new lover, Captain Robert Mayers (Tom Mison). When he is deployed and reported MIA, she crumbles into a ball of uncontrollable misery and has to be saved by whom else, but another man she hardly knows, Dr. Jones.

Once Sheikh Muhammed is introduced and the project begins, the film takes off and is surprisingly rich in content. The whimsical teachings of the Sheikh help Alfred open up and find what makes him happy. The discussion of faith and its relationship to religion is enlightening in its own way and reveals the true onus of the film is, in fact, not the salmon. By far the best scenes, both aesthetically and with regards to content, are when Alfred and Harriet are working closely with the Sheikh. Typically, a wise, learned character like the Sheikh can be pretentious and unnecessary, but in this case, the personality fits in well with the theme of the film. Whether this is due to Amr Waked’s portrayal, the writing, or both, I cannot say.

The Patricia storyline provides an interesting perspective, as well. As the head PR woman for the PM, she has an obligation to keep backlash to a minimum and play the politics. Upon learning of two million British fishermen, her immediate reaction is of the possibilities for the next election and nothing more. This becomes a theme in the film as pure intentions and ulterior motives collide.

Salmon Fishing2

Lastly, and most importantly for this type of film, McGregor and Blunt are excellent together. They have proven the talent on their own and the rapport on screen makes the film much easier to watch. McGregor tackles Alfred’s character arc very well, and Blunt uses this to make Harriet a stronger character when she could have easily been overlooked in different casting circumstances.

While the ending is not ideal, I cannot fault Salmon for it apart from the hint of hope for something unique. I am a fan of McGregor and have a mild-to-severe crush on Blunt, so this film was destined to be positive in my book. However, I still think anyone looking for a unique, emotionally rich film will be satisfied upon viewing Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

*I forget the title they give her.

    • DLH
    • January 17th, 2013

    What was unsatisfying about the ending? (as I have not seen it yet)

    • that would ruin the movie. you’ll just have to see it.

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