Film Review: Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

Recently I discovered the potential delights of the Curzon Home Cinema service now available through Freesat and decided that I’d give it a go. So I signed up, added some funds and went searching for a cheap, but potentially good film to act as the proverbial guinea pig. And Salmon Fishing In The Yemen seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

It’s one of those films, that everybody seems to have heard of, conjures up pre viewing images of warmth and happiness from it’s name alone and yet, seems to have passed everybody by. Watching the trailer, my initial reaction was that it was going to be a pleasant, entertaining film. A throw away Sunday night film and I was half expecting to come out the other side so-to-speak, having found a film that is thoroughly enjoyable and yet also instantly forgettable.

However, and to my surprise that wasn’t quite the case. The film is certainly thoroughly enjoyable: it’s playful, beautiful, warm hearted, you can throw endless romantic and light adjectives at it with ease (I wanted to write fluffy but couldn’t bring myself to!) but that’s almost papering over the cracks that lie just beneath the surface. Cracks which ultimately destroy the films potential.

Salmon Fishing should be great. It should be powerful and uplifting but sadly it’s far, far too muddled and there are too many extremes in play with the position and style it tries to take to fit everything together smoothly.

Kirsten Scott Thomas - Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

At it’s very core you have the story involving Dr Jones (Ewan McGregor), Harriet (Emily Blunt) and Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) and one man’s seemingly farcical dream to fish salmon in the Yemen. And yet this tale, the relationships and characters and the actual meaning and metaphors represented by our water bound protagonists are suddenly and stupidly diluted by the introduction of the comedic and misplaced Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Bernard Hill (Conleth Hill). It’s almost as if the film’s producers managed to bring Scott Thomas on board and so invented an entire character, role and repeating section of the film purely to accommodate her. Her character brings nothing to the film. The comedy and light relief she is meant to provide actually do more harm than good by taking you away from the story and emotions you want to see. Just as you really start to get into it, you really start to see the charm and grace of the film, WHAM, in comes a foolish political parody played out more in keeping with a poor small screen sketch show than a feature film.

Emily Blunt - Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

It also doesn’t help that Blunt’s character, Harriet, is almost the spitting image in looks, tone, appearance, and on screen role to that of Vesper Lynd, as brought to life by Eva Green in Casino Royale. Honestly, for a large part of the film, I actually forgot it was Green and not Blunt who played the character such is the resemblance of the characters. And then when the Sheikh arrives, the make up department manage to make Waked somehow look plastic, and while the visual of an Arab Sheikh in robes wading around a Scottish waterway fly fishing is bizarre enough to start with, when his skin tone looks unnaturally orange and rigid things become unbelievably absurd.

As I said, this film should be brilliant. After all, they’ve missed the mark in so many ways for me and yet still managed to make a decent film but it should be more. This is a film that takes a look, makes comments and wants to shout about how it’s the little things in life that count.

Amr Waked & Ewan Mcgregor - Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

That no matter what we say, how we act, we all need faith, we all have faith, and whether it’s as large as organised religion or as small as the simple belief of a dream, or the trust that even when you’re standing alone with an idea, nothing is impossible if you want it enough. That as long as you believe, politics, money and even racial and/or social difference doesn’t matter. In life it is simply having the strength to hold onto the seed of conviction that bore the dream to start with and miracles can happen. And yet it should have taken its own advice, and run with its belief and faith in this core story, because if it had, if it had really found the inner strength it suggests we all have, then I wouldn’t have been left feeling the longer the film went on the more it fell apart. I would be gushing about a film which changed the way I look at life. But I’m not.

I know exactly where this film now fits into the pantheon of life. It’s happily resides along with films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Song For Marion, Saving Grace, Mamma Mia… the list is pretty long these days, that your retired parents will happily sit down to on a Sunday afternoon: cup of tea, slice of cake and thoroughly enjoy as it pours down outside! I said at the beginning, based on the trailer that I went on my fishing trip expecting an enjoyable but forgettable film I’m still not sure whether that’s what I got or not. I haven’t instantly forgotten it, but I just wish it gave so much more than it did because it’s got so much more so say… if only it had the faith to do so.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.