Does fishing for fresh water salmon in the dry climates of Yemen sound impossible to you? Well, Ewan McGregor would emphatically agree, at least at first. In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, McGregor plays Alfred Jones, a British expert on fishing who seems to have about as much emotion and enthusiasm as the creatures he studies. After receiving an email from Harriet (Emily Blunt) about a project to make fly fishing a reality in the middle of the desert, Alfred brushes it off without much consideration. But when the idea flows past Prime Minister’s vivacious press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is desperately looking for some positive press from the Middle East, Alfred soon finds himself meeting with a worldly sheik (Amr Waked) determined to make this far-fetched idea a reality.
Jones is reluctantly forced to begin work on the project, gradually realizing that it’s not only doable, but could actually prove to be a thriving prospect for ailing area. With his miserable marriage falling apart, venturing out into the desert to make the impossible a reality becomes a comforting escape. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s working closely with the alluring Emily Blunt, who is need of some comforting of her own when it seems her boyfriend won’t be returning from the war.
The whole thing soon gets a good bit of media attention and financial backers, but not everyone is so enthusiastic as some of the militant natives see this project as a betrayal on the sheik’s part and set out to sabotage the whole thing. Despite attempts on the sheik’s life and other setbacks, director Lasse Hallström manages to keep things lighthearted, giving a sense of humorous hope throughout the film. Once unlikely allies, Alfred and Harriet growing more and more fond of each other as they journey up the proverbial stream together in this inspiring journey rife with resistance.
Even when things seem on the brink of success, for the fish as well as in Alfred and Harriet’s personal lives, they are forced to overcome even greater odds than they first imagined as everything they’ve spwaned professionally and personally gets washed away (metaphorically and literally). As he’s done with previous films like Chocolat and Dear John, Hallström finds ways to keep hope alive even when all seems lost. Though it’s not a Hollywood happy ending for everyone, Salmon Fishing offers a believable look at overcoming life’s obstacles, no matter how impossible they might seem.
Salmon Fishin in the Yemen. Directed by Lasse Hallström. Starring Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked. Rated PG-13. www.fishingintheyemen.com.