Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an calm, beautiful success

 

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen – 2012

Director Lasse Hallström
Starring Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked
Written by Simon Beaufoy based on the novel by Paul Torday

I do not like the taste of Salmon, but I have always enjoyed the activity of fishing in its many  forms.  There is an almost spiritual experience, in its quiet way.  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen shows another man who enjoys fishing and is inspired by faith to do so.  Sheikh Mohammed, as portrayed by Egyptian actor Amr Waked, finds solace in knowing that the fish, below the surface don’t know the color, religion, or the politics of the fisher.  The fish are there for all people.  In the faith brought on by his meditation, he has his financial advisor, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt) engage the British fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor) in the task of bringing Salmon to the Yemen river.

This scenario is set up to bring Harriet and Alford together, of course, and in the beginning, we get every sign that this is a goofy romantic comedy.  It spends much of the first half hour making it clear that Dr. Jones is a British stiff who, while not enjoying his pedestrian life, is desperate to keep it just as is.  The same goes for his marriage.  Harriet is a young woman in a search for love, and she thinks she may have found it.  Then they are thrown together for this project.

The movie hovers in British office territory until the introduction of the Sheikh, from which time it takes on a bit more significant tone.  In movie form, this is pretty much cereal box wisdom, but one can see it as meaning more in the novel.  The performances are up for the task as far as romantic portrayals go.  McGregor is exceptionally subtle  and Blunt has more than enough substance to pick up Hallström’s cue.  Waked’s performance, however,  pushes through most of the Sheikh clichés and moves into a more human territory.  To see his joy in the prospects of his faith being rewarded feels genuine.

Hallström spends much of the time with subtly beautiful imagery.  He is a master at tone and has no problem linking the story’s plot elements, giving them a sense of gravity and making both story lines more appealing. The movie finds him taking his time letting the actors ponder and express themselves calmly and honestly.  He is so effective, the 107 running time feels only half as long. There is not much here to linger in the memory, but it is a pleasant experience.

(***1/2 out of ******)

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