I was doubtful that a romantic comedy could be made that was decent which involved the odd combination of salmon fishing and the Yemen. Somehow using the appeal and talent of Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, Dear John) is able to pretty much pull it off. I say “pretty much” as the film is not fantastic. It sure is cute but that is mostly due to the likeability factor of the two leads. If you had other actors in roles it might not have worked at all. The story has holes and leaps of logic that were hard to swallow that with other leads I might have focused on more. With Blunt and McGregor tending to the reins I put on my rose coloured glasses and simply enjoyed what unfolded on the screen before my eyes.
Based on a novel by Paul Torday the story involves a powerful and incredibly rich sheik from Yemen (Amr Waked – Contagion, Syriana) who is a fishing enthusiast and wants to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen. His idea is not only for the pure pleasure of fishing (for everyone but the fish, I presume) but for the more esoteric purpose of showing his people that whatever they imagine is possible. Though he presses forward with the building of dam, etc. to make this possible it seems as if there are certain Yemeni who do not support his ambition.
In order to carry forward his idea Sheikh Muhammed engages the woman in charge of his UK business, Harriet (Emily Blunt – The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada). She, in turn, brings on board the very doubtful government fish expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor – Moulin Rouge, The Island). The only reason he agrees to be a part of this scheme which he finds to be utter nonsense is because the British Prime Minister’s press secretary, Patricia Maxwell (Kristen Scott Thomas – The English Patient, Four Weddings & A Funeral), insists upon it as she needs a “nice” Middle Eastern story to distract from what is happening with British forces in Afghanistan.
Both Harriet and Alfred are in the midst of romantic problems with Harriet’s new boyfriend (Tom Mison – One Day) who is a British Special Forces Officer being declared MIA in Afghanistan and Alfred’s marriage crumbling while they are working on the salmon fishing project. Both end up being a shoulder to lean on for the other while working together.
The whole thing is rather British, if you get what I mean. They are all proper and witty. That is except for Kristen Scott Thomas’s character. She is witty but boy oh boy is she a spitfire. Patricia Maxwell is a woman who tells it like it is and Scott Thomas is wonderful in what is a different kind of character for her. The character is such an over-the-top political figure that it really is realistic.
The mutual affection society that grows between Harriet and Alfred is very proper. It builds slowly and most of the time awkwardly. Which is understandable as they both have others in their lives. It remains a love of the heart and never is allowed to go to the body. We love them for their indecision and loyalty.
It is sugary. It is implausible. But the charm wins out in the end.
-Miracles Happen: Making Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
-The Fisherman in the Middle East: Novelist Paul Torday