Monday, 16 November 2015


“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” - John Buchan

We Watched Lasse Hallström’s 2011 movie “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” at the weekend. It proved to be an interesting, quirky movie, which in the end was quite enjoyable. It stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas, and the screenplay is by Simon Beaufoy based on Paul Torday’s novel.

Yemen is an Arab country in Southwest Asia, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is the second largest country in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 km2, with its coastline stretches for about 2,000 km. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south, and Oman to the east. Although Yemen's constitutionally stated capital is the city of Sana’a, the city has been under rebel control since February 2015. Because of this, Yemen’s capital has been temporarily relocated to the port city of Aden, on the southern coast. Yemen’s territory includes more than 200 islands; the largest of these is Socotra.

The film obviously relates to more peaceful times in the Yemen, and is about dreaming big and realising one’s dreams no matter how impossible to realise they may seem. The plot revolves around a visionary, Sheik Muhammed (Amr Waked), who believes his passion for the peaceful pastime of salmon fishing can enrich the lives of his people, and he dreams of bringing the sport to the not so fish-friendly desert. Willing to spare no expense, he instructs his representative to turn the dream into reality, an extraordinary feat that will require the involvement of Britain’s leading fisheries expert, Dr Jones (McGregor), who happens to think the project both absurd and unachievable. That is, until the Prime Minister’s overzealous press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) latches on to it as a ‘good will’ story. Now, this unlikely team will put it all on the line and embark on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible, possible.

The film is a quirky, satirical, romantic comedy. It is gentle British fare that manages to pleasantly charm the viewer into accepting the persiflage of the unlikelihood of fishing for salmon in the desert with all of its attendant leaps of faith. It is a film about friendship, love, cross-cultural bridges and of course, fishing. In the same breath, let me say that one does not need to fish to enjoy the movie. There is also the unlikely romance that sparks between Dr Jones (McGregor) and investment consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt) while working on this theoretically possible (but difficult to realise) project.

The acting is great, all characters making the most of the good (and occasionally) very witty script. Direction is understated and often tongue-in-cheek, as one would expect from Lasse Hallström whose most successful films (“Chocolat”, “The Cider House Rules”, “My Life As a Dog”) turn on flights of fancy. We enjoyed the film and remained engaged during its 107 minute duration. Comedy and social comment, mixed with romance, cultural ethography and wit, with just a touch of whimsy!

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