Dir: Lasse Hallström
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked
The adaptation of a popular book to film is never an easy task; especially when the book takes the form of emails, interviews and diary entries. However, this literary conceit might actually, in an odd may, be of benefit to a director; giving them a degree of licence which a “straight” narrative would probably not afford(and let’s be honest, there is always the danger of One Day style butchery). Lasse Hallström, the director of Chocolat, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Cider House Rules, manages to extract the essence of the book and meld it into a highly-enjoyable movie.
Fred (McGregor) works for Defra and is in an unhappy marriage. Harriet (Blunt) works for a consultancy company and her new boyfriend has just been posted to Afghanistan. They are thrown together when Sheikh Muhammed (Waked) proposes a madcap scheme to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen. Patricia (Scott Thomas) is the Prime Minister’s press secretary who is in dire need of a good news story, and when she hears about this project, views it as a perfect opportunity to bolster Middle Eastern relations. As the scheme starts to take shape, the relationship between Fred and Harriet begins to change.
As a fan of the book (my dad thinks it is stupid fyi) I was concerned how this would turn out. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen manages to be a film which cleverly reproduces the tone and feeling of the novel, whilst never really building on the source material. The book itself suffered from an identity crisis; is it a romantic novel about the relationship between Fred and Harriet or a story of how a wild scheme could possibly come to fruition though faith and belief? The film suffers from a similar problem; caught between the two and never fully satisfying on either front. However, it is a light, highly enjoyable tale, with likeable protagonists.
Both Blunt and McGregor put in good performances whilst never really being asked to scratch the surfaces of the characters; the latter being given the better lines and generally delivering them well. Much of the comedy stems from Scott Thomas’s grotesque caricature of a Whitehall PR; deftly shoehorned into proceedings to keep the plot moving. The Yemeni backdrops are beautiful, and whilst some of the plot twists are chunkily done, you find yourself being gently imbued with a warm fuzzy feeling throughout.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen isn’t a film that will demand repeat viewings. It is, however, a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours; sitting in that nice place of British comedy, it would make a good double-bill with ‘Marigold Hotel.
Now screening at the Showroom www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/salmonfishingintheyemen