After spending the last two weeks watching the endless mayhem of the Friday the 13th franchise, I was really in the mood for a nice, low-key romantic comedy and that’s exactly what I got on Tuesday night when I went to the Dallas Angelika and saw Salmon Fishing In The Yemen.
Now, I have to admit that I come from a family that is full of people who like to fish. I, however, am not one of them. First off, as I’ve explained here numerous times, Lisa does not do water. Second, I have never seen the appeal of spending hours doing nothing just on the off-chance that you might catch a slimy fish that you’re just going to toss back into lake or river or wherever it is that they’re just trying to live their lives day-to-day. (Seriously, it seems like that would be very traumatic for the fish.) I understand that there’s supposed to be some zen nature thing that comes along with fishing but … no, I just don’t get it.
Fred Jones (played by Ewan McGregor) would disagree with me. Fred is a world-renowned expert on fish and fishing who works for the British government. It quickly becomes apparent that Fred is more comfortable fishing than dealing with other human beings. (The film goes as far as to have another character suggest that he has Asperger’s syndrome but I’m going to disagree with that diagnosis because, quite frankly, I think that the current popularity of characters and celebrities with self-diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome is really more of a case of lazy characterization than anything else.) Anyway, Fred is stuck in a failing marriage and is suffering from a huge case of ennui but that all changes when he meets Harriet (Emily Blunt).
Harriet is a neurotic girl whose boyfriend Robert (a very handsome and charming Tom Mison) is serving in Afghanistan. Harriet works for a consulting firm that has been contracted by a wealthy sheikh (Amr Waked) who wants to introduce salmon fishing to the desert country of Yemen. While Fred claims that the sheikh’s idea is impossible, the British government decides that the project has a lot of PR value and soon, both Fred and Harriet find themselves in Yemen, attempting to introduce salmon into a foreign habitat, dealing with suspicious and militant locals, and, of course, falling in love.
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is an undeniably uneven film and it didn’t really change my opinion of fishing but I still enjoyed it. It’s a genuinely sweet-natured film and, as was proven last year in Beginners, nobody falls in love on-screen as convincingly as Ewan McGregor and he and Emily Blunt have a very likable chemistry. They make for a super cute couple and you really do find yourself hoping that they get together and really, what else can you ask for when you go to a see a romantic comedy?
I was a bit less impressed with the film’s attempt at political satire but that may have had more to do with my own election year fatigue than anything else. That said, the Prime Minister’s press secretary is played Kristin Scott Thomas and she literally gives one of the most ferocious performances that I’ve ever seen. She snarls and snaps with such skill that she made even the film’s most heavy-handed moments entertaining. Perhaps her signature moment comes when another character offers her his resignation and she snaps back, without missing a beat, “Accepted.” Scott Thomas utters that one line with the perfect combination of venom, annoyance, and gratitude.
Seriously, somebody get Kristen Scott Thomas her own HBO sitcom. She deserves it.