Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Based on the book of the same name by, Paul Torday) focuses on two people (Played by Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt) both of whom are having romantic issues and are thrown together by the bullish press secretary to the Prime Minister (Played by Kristin Scott Thomas) in order to create a good news story from the Middle East. It doesn’t take a fishery expert to be able to pluck out from this film’s waters, its conclusion. However despite the film’s predictability and its seemingly lightweight and un-cinematic plot, for the first act, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen holds your interest.
However as the film moves along I found my interest waning, as the plot ran out of steam (I accidentally wrote stream the first time I typed this…subconscious fishing puns) and the predictability reached its fruition. Lasse Hallstrom directs the film with a surprising degree of visual invention. Utilizing techniques such as split-screens in order to stylize the film’s substance. While this flashiness lends the film a visual dimension you would not expect of such material, Lasse doesn’t use it throughout, allowing it to die off along with the film’s interest and excitement. While appreciating and understanding the presence of such pizzazz, I concurrently found it to be rather gimmicky and pointless. While some may argue all uses of such style are in the end gimmicky and pointless, there are times when such style can be organically integrated with substance, this wasn’t one of those times. It also doesn’t help that these stylistic diversions also seemed to be telling parts of the story that I didn’t want and personally believed didn’t need to be told, in a rather illogical manner (The private messaging with the Prime Minister was particularly personally bothersome)
In regards to the performances, Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt are both actors who I like, who both give competent, if not challenging performances. It didn’t help that the secondary characters constantly referred to McGregor’s character as Dr. Jones as if you are me all that leads to, is your inner voice doing its worst Short Round impression. Both actors work well individually and together and I blame the script and direction rather than them, for me never being truly invested in their relationship. However, neither of these actors are particularly breaking any new ground and they both have and will deliver better. Kristin Scott Thomas gives what is arguably the film’s most theatrical performance as the Press Secretary to the Prime Minister. Hers was a character and performance which I felt was trying a little too hard and was very much sub-Malcolm Tucker.
The film’s pacing was rather problematic along with the film’s tone, as it felt much longer than its running time, dragging towards the end and dealing with storylines that felt a bit heavy for the rest of the film’s lightness and even more so considering how they were handled. Certain storylines felt rather unnecessary and while I understand the need for romantic obstacles, I personally found the nature of these obstacles poorly executed and problematic.
Salmon Fishing is not a bad film, its well acted, and reasonably well shot, with an impossible to hate yet no less cheesy message. However I wish Cameron Crowe had been the one to make it, as his films have managed to not only keep me engaged throughout despite their light plots, yet he is also able to not only make you stomach over-sentimentality, but also feel it. We Bought a Zoo would be an example.
Overall, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a perfectly acceptable, passable and innocent film. Its heart is in the right place and has a cast that is able to sell it. It drags in the third act, has some ridiculous moments (Ewan McGregor goes into old Jedi territory with a fishing rod at one point) and unnecessarily weighty subplots that it can’t handle and do justice. It certainly isn’t the catch that reaffirms my faith in film, yet it certainly isn’t a stretch of waiting that I will hate if and when I recall it years from now.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister, Michael Dalton