Sweet, Funny and Different
If a sheikh could dream, what would it be about? In the movie Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the title explains exactly what one Arab prince (Amr Waked) dreams about. And if you’re a Yemen oil sheikh with an endless bank account, why not pursue a dream and build a river in the desert, then stock it with fish?
So Sheikh Muhammed does his homework and gets in touch with Britain’s governmental-fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor). Of course everyone in his office thinks it’s a ridiculous idea, even Dr. Jones who says, “This thing is a bloody joke!” But after several replies of “no,” Jones finds himself situated in the desert and staring up in the face of the handsome prince. Fly-fishing is the only thing the prince wants, so Jones begins to make plans.
As Alfred packs to leave, a little more about him is revealed. His wife (Rachael Stirling), a businesswoman, travels for her job and apparently the two rarely see each other. But she’s recently at home -- and has come to the realization that things have to change. Bad timing, because Alfred announces he’s leaving for the Yemen.
Alfred gets thrown together with the Prince’s investment adviser, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt). That a sheikh would use a foreigner for an investment advisor is about as believable as…well…fishing in the Yemen. But let’s use our imagination.
Before Alfred can complete final preparation to go to Yemen, he has to contend with Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), the British prime minister’s chief press officer. She views the idea as hilarious and thinks it will make the British look ridiculous for even thinking this scheme would work.
Also doubtful, Alfred jokingly tells Harriet, “All I need to do is trap 10,000 salmon and get them to the Yemen alive – don’t ask me how – and get them to migrate upstream.”
While working on the project together Alfred and Harriet face an even bigger problem. They become attracted to each other. Not a good idea, for Alfred is still married, and Harriet can’t help frantically worrying about her boyfriend who’s missing in action in Afghanistan.
The film, based on the novel by Paul Torday, works for me for several reasons. Ewan McGregor is one. Even with a heavy-handed English accent, he’s adorable as this conflicted character. The chemistry between McGregor and Blunt also works, which only heightens the intrigue. And Amr Waked effectively plays the prince as a kind, smart, sensitive guy.
Finally, there’s lots of humor here and -- minus a few far-stretched scenes involving Muslim extremists – the movie makes viewers hope that two completely different countries could actually see eye to eye over something as simple as fish and that it’s never too late to believe in the impossible. I’m a big fan of director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules), a filmmaker who seems to find an uncommon path to extraordinary tales.
(Released by CBS Films and rated “PG-13” for some violence and sexual content, and brief language.)
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.