Britain's leading fisheries expert tackles the impossible task of bringing wild salmon from British waters to the deserts of the Middle East.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Directed by Lasse Lasse Hallström

Opens March 23

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is supposed to be about restoring faith, finding potential in the impossible, and making the unbelievable believable. It’s too bad, then, that the film itself fails on that last part.

Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is Britain’s leading fisheries expert, and is working on finding a suitably shocking cover for a fishing journal when his boss dumps an impossible task onto his desk: bringing wild salmon from British waters to the deserts of the Middle East. It’s essentially a PR move. Patricia Maxwell, the prime minister’s head publicity officer (a suitably stiff Kristin Scott Thomas), is looking for a feel-good story to improve British-Arab relations after a particularly bloody war incident. She’s caught wind of a project headed by Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked), an avid fly-fisher who wants to irrigate his land and introduce the sport in hopes of bringing his community together.

Thus Jones is forced into a working relationship with Harriet (Emily Blunt), the sheikh’s representative. Jones insists the idea is impossible, but orders from Maxwell mean he’ll lose his job if he doesn’t pursue it. Both Jones and Harriet are romantically tied, but their relationships have out-clauses: Jones married young and his marriage is turning frigid, and Harriet’s new boyfriend Robert (Tom Mison) has just been deployed indefinitely.

Thus it’s pretty clear from the outset what is going to happen, especially when Robert goes MIA. Harriet is crushed by the news, and her ensuing reaction is completely over-the-top. She’d been dating Robert all of three weeks, and goes into a depression as deep as if she’d just lost her child, refusing to eat or leave her house. After Jones’ marriage crumbles and he finally propositions Harriet, she tells him she still needs more time to get over Robert, even though he’s somehow over his twentysomething-year-marriage.

Salmon Fishing, then, is a sweet but predictable love story, encased in a creative storyline and bathed in beautiful soft colors and stunning landscapes. The actors do their best to bring largely one-dimensional characters to life, and the subtle music and plot curiosities keep them afloat, but ultimately it isn’t enough to believe in.

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