Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (12A)

Seeing an Arab sheikh in full traditional garb waist-deep in a Scottish stream aptly sums up this movie in which said Arabian billionaire – a man with more money than sense – pours £50m into a crackpot scheme.

Ewan McGregor is the dry, fusty academic tasked with making real the sheikh’s dream – of introducing salmon fishing into the Yemen – and Emily Blunt is the feisty civil servant who has to untangle miles of red tape to assist him.

Taken from Paul Torday’s novel this is a bizarre, quirky little tale that relies heavily on the chemistry between mismatched duo Harriet and Alfred (Blunt and McGregor). Fatally, there is none.

McGregor, as the awkward, vaguely Aspergers-afflicted Arthur, is woefully miscast and makes for a most unconvincing nerd. One has to wonder at his decision-making process after witnessing his recent work in this and projects such as Haywire. Emily Blunt fares better as the pen pusher with a soldier boyfriend lost in action but frequently it feels as if her grief and concern come a very poor second to the fish.

The film belongs to Kristin Scott Thomas as the Prime Minister’s press secretary, a conniving career woman – all fake smiles, power suits and manipulation – who sees the sheikh’s scheme as a vote winner. If there are laughs to be harvested, she does so.

This is an eccentric film. Not a drama, not a comedy, not a romance yet possessing all of those unwieldy elements. It makes for an unsuccessful combination and one that takes a right turn into utter nonsense when McGregor foils an assassination attempt. Such moments ensure this one rapidly wears out its welcome.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a film that misses on almost every level. It is a confused, meandering mess of a movie – a surprise given the pedigree of screenwriter Simon (127 Hours) Beaufoy and director Lasse (Chocolat) Hallström.

Think A Salmon Swims Through It but without Brad Pitt, Brenda Blethyn or Robert Redford…

 

 

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