Review: SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

 

            Everyone has had seemingly impossible dreams.  It is the courageous ones who pursue these passionately, who can say they tried, whether or not they actually succeed.  In fact the dreamers, regardless of success, have the best stories to tell about their pursuits.  The more practical people who usually take the paths of less resistance often attempt to discourage the wild-eyed ones hoping to achieve the impossible.  Without improbable goals, the human race would not travel by plane and would not have traveled in space.  Director Lasse Hallstrom’s (CHOCOLAT, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES) latest picture, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, reminds audiences that without dreamers, there would be no incredible stories to tell.

            Looking for a positive and uplifting story to use as a distraction from bad press, the British Prime Minister’s spin doctor, Bridget Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), leeches on to a sheik’s goal to bring fly fishing to the Yemen.  Fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) and public relations representative Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) are charged with assisting Sheik Muhammed in achieving this impossible dream.  Muhammed’s desire to bring salmon fishing to his homeland attempts to bring new life to the desert, and hopefully facilitate a more peaceful existence among his troubled people.  Dr. Jones, at first, constantly discourages the sheik from undertaking this massive and nearly impossible project, reminding him of all of the scientific improbabilities.  Undaunted in his quest, Sheik Muhammed’s faith in his vision is never shaken and Dr. Jones realizes that the safe and easiest paths in life do not get one very far and can often impede one’s ability to achieve true happiness.

            Based on the novel by Paul Torday, writer Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) once again does some outstanding work adapting this beautiful, multi-layered story which had me mostly smiling and nearly in tears during some of the more heartbreaking moments.  The story is part political satire, part romance, and part visionary dream.  Lasse Hallstrom, cast and crew shine and captivate with some of their finest work here.  My only criticism of the movie has to do with the romantic subplot between Dr. Jones and Harriet which plays out a tad predictably.  The romance actually is decently written with a lovely build-up and some realistic obstacles; however, the end result is pretty transparent.  Nevertheless, McGregor and Blunt share a wonderful on-screen chemistry.

            Their performances feel genuine and fully realized.  McGregor sublimely portrays the reserved and timid scientist whose life is completely changed by this experience.  Dr. Jones rarely takes risks in life.  Practical evaluations and calculations have always driven him.  Rarely one to upset the status quo, Dr. Jones is completely rocked out of his element by the Sheik who encourages him to abandon his comfort zone and take a leap of faith.  Blunt brings a lovely delicacy and vulnerability to her role as Harriet.  Ms.Chetwood-Talbot, another person who rarely gambles, has recently put her heart on the line in a relationship, only to have fate crush it in a tragedy.  Needing a fresh start, Harriet joins Dr. Jones and Sheik Muhammad and feels renewed in doing so.  As Muhammad, Amr Waked brings a beautiful, peaceful calm that the role requires.  My favorite performance in the film belongs to Kristin Scott Thomas as Bridget Maxwell.  Her strong, blunt, no-nonsense approach is perfection and provides most of the laughs in the film.  Maxwell definitely wears the pants in her family and in the Prime Minister’s office.  Scenes showing her juggling her life as a wife, mother, and career woman are priceless.

            I have a strong feeling that this film will not get the attention it really deserves; therefore, I must highly recommend it.  I feel that is worth a full priced ticket.  If one wants to avoid the HUNGER GAMES crowds and are in the mood for a surprisingly extraordinary story, take a leap of faith and go see this movie.  Everyone has had wild dreams and the desire to pursue them.  This movie celebrates these dreams and the ones brave enough to follow through.

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