As tittles go “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is a mouthful. It’s quirky enough to catch your eye, I suppose, and it isn’t a cute metaphor for something else. This movie is indeed about salmon fishing in the Yemen, but it’s also about faith as much as fishing.
Ewan McGregor is Dr. Alfred Jones a rigid scientist at the British government department of fisheries. He studies spawning habits of fish, writes scientific papers and lives a life of quiet desperation. When he is approached by Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), a consultant for Yemeni Sheikh Mohammed (Amr Waked), to create a fly fishing reserve in the Yemen, he balks at first but soon not only dives in headfirst to the project, but, since this is a light romanic comedy, also discovers an interest in a life form without gills.
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” should do for fly-fishing what “The Big Year” did for bird watching. That is to say, not much. The mix of science, faith–fishing is a mystical past time, apparently—and romance has some charm, mostly due to the engaging performances of McGregor, Blunt and Waked, but other plot threads—like an assassination attempt–feel forced and out of place.
Popping in and out of the story is Kristin Scott Thomas as the aggressive spokesperson for he Prime Minister. She’s used for comedic relief and pulls off the part with aplomb. If the rest of the film had the spark she brings to her scenes we might have been better able to forgive its plot transgressions.