Getting past the upstream impediment inherent in its title from a Paul Torday novel was obvious to its producers and makers in what is a curiously evocative, if bittersweet dramedy.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen stars Ewan MacGregor and Emily Blunt, and it seems to make the most out of its overarching sweet sentimentality, even from some very warm cinematography.
Lasse Hallstrom, less detached here than he was in the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' Dear John, provides a certain endearing playfully quaint congeniality that's been a trademark in many of his movies including The Hoax and the flavorful Chocolat.
Here, in sync with the director's style from a rich but not particularly winningly crafted script by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) a kind of 'fish out of water' tale has an opportunity to reel in a wider audience even with its topical dialogue and shots related to making fly fishing in the Middle East a reality.
Part of the offbeat element comes from a very opulent Sheik (Amr Waked) having a financial advisor, Blunt's Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, having her help him realize his passion of salmon fishing in his very dry native land. That would mean building a river there and Dr. Alfred Jones (MacGregor), the fisheries expert with Asperger's syndrome whom she retains isn't really keen about the idea.
Harriet's plan is aided by an overzealous British press secretary for the Prime Minister, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott-Thomas, impressive in last year's Sarah's Key) who spins it as international goodwill.
The subordinating strands from Beaufoy in such a rather measured pace by Hallstrom include Fred's stale marriage and Harriet's boyfriend fighting in Afghanistan (Tom Mison), as well as Muslim threats to the Sheik's dream, detract somewhat from main narrative flow in the effort to get the cold-water fish into a new habitat.
Nevertheless, what's promising is the belief in how a charming Blunt and the preppy uptight MacGregor arrive as an attractive screen couple even if Fred and Harriet don't appear to be the right fit. Their portrayals help keep it all from getting too fishy in a way while Waked offers a droll tenderness to his role with good, if metaphorical bits of dialogue as Fred reluctantly acquiesces in the idea. Though her character may clash with the general mood, Scott-Thomas makes for a zesty public-relations person that keeps the waters of "Salmon" fishing with enough predictability and precision (though the original finale may have been jettisoned) to reach an odd, quiet poignancy.
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