What’s the story?
Leading a somewhat repressed existence, not to mention enduring a wholly loveless marriage, the life of government fisheries expert Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) does not seem to be going anywhere. Or at least that is the case until his life is turned around by the impossible task of bringing the quintessentially Scottish pastime of salmon fishing to the dusty deserts of the Middle East.
The man behind this insane vision is extremely wealthy Sheikh Muhammad (Amr Waked) who adores angling in the Scottish Highlands. His fervent passion for fishing has given birth to a dream of bringing salmon fishing to his faraway homeland in the Yemen.
Naturally, the British government are on the lookout for positive news stories to emerge from the Middle East thanks to the war in Afghanistan, so, with the help of ballsy government press secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) and posh PR executive Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), Fred is head-hunted and given the almost impossible task of making the Sheikh’s dream become a reality.
A director who has more or less based his career on bringing bestselling books to life on the big screen (The Cider House Rules, The Shipping Forecast, Dear John), Lasse Hallstrom certainly knows his way around a book-to-movie adaptation and, by taking on Paul Torday’s highly popular debut novel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, it’s safe to say that this adaptation is one of Hallstrom’s more successful efforts.
Capturing the contrasting beauties of both the lush Scottish and sunburned Arabic landscapes, Hallstrom gives us a beautifully filmed romantic drama that displays joyous overtones of subtle comedy and heartfelt emotion.
The cast are universally superb as Ewan McGregor plays against type as nerdy, over-analytical fishing expert Fred, a man with as much sex appeal as a eunuch. Obviously, though, McGregor has the dashing good looks to make Jones a gentle love interest for Emily Blunt’s effortlessly posh Harriet.
Kristin Scott Thomas steals the show, though, playing foul-mouthed government press secretary Patricia and it’s safe to say that her character matches In The Thick of It’s ferocious Malcom Tucker in wit, crass outbursts and venom.
Taking time to let the characters ferment, Hallstrom has no desire to rush the proceedings and, like Fred and Harriet’s initially awkward relationship, it’s a film that feels naturally warming and gently seductive as romance blossoms and the Sheikh’s crazy yet admirable vision looks as if it just might come to fruition.
Those looking for an engaging drama with excellent performances and a subtle hint of comedy will certainly not be disappointed.