Movie Review: “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” — Hook, Line, and Stinker

Written by Brent Holmes May 14, 2012

“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is one of those feel-good comedies that it is easy to get hooked on, but if you are planning to have a meal, this fish has more bones than meat.

You want to go fishing in the where?

Ewan McGregor stars as Dr. Alfred Jones, the British government’s expert in fisheries, who must swim against a wave of government officials looking for a positive story in the Middle-East to catch the public eye. Forced to team up with a consultant, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) by the Prime Minister’s press secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), Dr. Jones is forced to come up with a preposterous plan to introduce salmon fishing to the desert region of the Yemen.

The romance is not much of a catch.

After the reluctant Dr. Jones signs onto the project, it is only a matter of time before he is doing a different kind of fishing. Soon he is developing an awkward romance with Harriet made more uncomfortable through the fact that they both are in stable-ish relationships.

It is rather annoying as their previous love interests are only constructed into a negative influence when the film wants them to be seen that way. They are obstacles the characters must overcome, then are not a problem, then conveniently become a problem again in time for the third act to stumble in.


The plot isn’t much of a catch either

It is soon revealed that the whole plan is actually being funded by a Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked) who wants to see his country’s economy improve. The sheik is a stereotypically constructed Eastern man of faith for whom money is no object and assassination attempts are to be handled with comedic one-liners and nonchalance.

Comedy has a bit of a hook

The actors do make good use of the plethora of jokes at their disposal. Kristin Scott Thomas and Ewan McGregor do an excellent job with the comically timed sarcasm working perfectly with the under current of cynicism that underlies their characters. Unfortunately, this tone is not properly maintained, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” wants to be a feel good movie, when everything else it has done has been a satire.


Something is fishy about it though

Director Lasse Hallstrom unfortunately does not know where he wants this film to go. The film is beautifully and bitterly cynical of the British government for much of its first act. It is openly aware of how ridiculous the premise is, but further knows that its premise is only the product of a government looking for a quick fix in the Middle East.

Half-way through the second act however the film transitions into some kind of feel good movie with Dr. Jones and Harriet’s romance bringing an optimistic tone to the film. It is not a well-orchestrated transition and it feels like the film is fishing for a reason to make its main plot line work, rather than let events play out.

“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is ultimately a mediocre romantic comedy that doesn’t balance its romance and political plot lines well. It’s funny, or sweet, or sad, when it means to be, but like fishing, film is art that requires patience and good timing. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has neither.

My Rating 5.5/10

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About Brent Holmes

Brent Holmes is a Film Studies and English Major attending Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario where he is working towards a PhD in Film Studies. He currently writes for We Eat Films and The Western Gazette (on the latter, he serves as Arts & Life editor).

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