For a movie that is one more piece based on a book, one can only hope that the paper take on this story is better than the movie. Salmon Fishing in The Yemen isn’t the worst movie of the year. That *honor* belongs to Nichols Cage’s Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. But it isn’t the best, either. It manages to sort of linger somewhere in the middle. That’s because it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a romance or a satire on foreign policy by the British government. The plot of this movie starts off after the bombing of a mosque in a Middle East nation. Upon seeing it on the news, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) sets out on a PR campaign of sorts, in order to try and maintain ties between the Yemeni and British governing bodies. In looking for a way to build some sort of good will between the two bodies, Patricia stumbles on the salmon fishing idea proposed by Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked). Thus ensues what comes across as the seeming satire on the absurdity of political inner workings.
Had the story maintained its seeming political roots, it would have been a much stronger work. The problem is that it continued to tie in a romance story between Alfred (Ewan McGregor) and Harriet (Emily Blunt). The constant romantic interludes throw off the story’s pacing and do little to really advance the primary story any. It’s another classic boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end romance. The addition of this storyline almost makes the story feel as if it’s suffering from an identity crisis. Though through all the romance, there is at least one bright moment. That moment comes as Alfred comes across as a little bit neurotic. He tells Harriet at lunch one day that he only drinks on the weekend, and he only drinks certain drinks. That makes him come across as at least slightly neurotic. Audiences who pay close enough attention will get a kick out of that.
For all the problems caused by the interweaving romance subplot, Salmon Fishing’s main political storyline is both moving and worth its own share of laughs. While the main story may not center on American issues, it’s one to which even American audiences can relate. The absurdity of political pandering is something that’s obviously universal. By contrast though, that something as simple as fishing could bring two men from two entirely different ethnic backgrounds and two entirely different sides of the world is a bold statement. It serves that much more to make all the political maneuvering of the world’s governments that much more pathetic. Sheikh Muhammed’s statement to Alfred makes that maneuvering that much more pathetic. He says to Alfred, “For fishermen, the only virtues are patience, tolerance, and humility.” He is saying in simple terms that a man can learn more of the world from fishing than all the political lessons combined. Sure, it’s a metaphor. But anyone who has ever gone fishing can vouch for this statement’s truth.
When it’s all said and done, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen proves to be anything but the year’s best movie. However, neither is it the year’s worst. But at a time when so many movie studios are relying increasingly on prequels, sequels, and remakes, all involved with this story get bonus points for taking the old school road and adapting a book to the big screen. For that matter, all involved get even more points for adapting a book with a largely original story, save for the romance. That being said, this is definitely one of the year’s most underrated movies. And it’s one that’s worth at least one watch.
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