Movie review: “Salmon Fishing in Yemen”

March 19, 2012 – With Hollywood cranking out remakes and sequels by the dozens, sometimes one needs to look to a foreign film to please their palate.

“Salmon Fishing in Yemen” is a rare find, a refreshingly witty film that tells the story of a billionaire sheik that wants to bring Salmon fishing to Yemen.

The British romantic comedy directed by Lasse Hallstrom of “The Cider House Rules” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” fame, is based on Paul Torday’s 2006 popular novel of the same name. Adaptations can be risky, especially for those who loved the book, but Hallstrom succeeded before, directing the film version of John Irving’s “The Cider House Rules”. And while I didn’t read Torday’s book, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and have read reviews that it stays pretty faithful to his novel, but with a few added surprises.

The film is getting rave reviews from most critics. One reviewer from the Huffington Post went as far as saying, “Salmon Fishing in Yemen has done for fishing what Norman Mailer did for boxing when he brought understanding to the sport by writing The Fight.”

I suppose that’s because it’s not easy to make a story about the quiet, low-key sport of fly-fishing compelling, but Hallstrom managed beautifully with this enchanting film, much more so that even Robert Redford did when he directed the acclaimed “A River Runs Through It”.

The movie stars Emily Blunt as an investment consultant representing a billionaire sheik, who hires straight-laced scientist (Ewan McGregor) to help realize the sheik’s dream. At first, the scientist says it can’t be done, but through a series of interesting twists and turns, he is told he has to try to make a go of it or he’ll lose his job.

Blunt and McGregor light up the screen with their chemistry, even when it is through their proper and sophisticated business communication at the beginning of the film. The story contains undertones of science vs. faith, which is often debated these days, and has a few side stories that are just as interesting, including one with a hilarious Kristin Scott Thomas playing a unique “spin doctor” of sorts.

But the real comic genius belong to McGregor, who may not be known for his comedy, but delivered some of the best one-liners in the movie; no, not side-splitting slap-stick comedic lines that often tickle the funny bone of audiences, but cleverly written, sharp and sometimes biting lines that makes the film’s ticket price worthwhile.

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