Monday, April 2

REVIEW: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Directed by Lasse Hallström
1 hour 47 minutes
From CBS Films, BBC Films

Ewan McGregor
Emily Blunt
Kristin Scott Thomas
Amr Waked
Tom Mison
Rachael Stirling

When I first heard of this film and specifically its title, I was, of course, reminded of A River Runs Through It.  Both films were about fishing and both had catchy but unusual titles.  I was not planning on seeing A River Runs Through It and am so glad I did.  I had not wanted to see a long movie watching someone fish for heaven's sakes and of course it was much more, as is this film.  I never considered for a moment not seeing Salmon Fishing in the Yemen because Ewan McGregor starred in it and it was helmed by a director whose work I so admire.

There is often a mystical quality to films directed by Lasse Hallström, some with a little sprinkling of fairy dust, a bit of magic. 
I am forever beholden to him for Chocolat (2000) which I regard as the best work he has ever done, especially with regard to the ethereal nature I am highlighting.  He is aided by excellent people behind the camera who take us to bewitching locales and showcase them effectively and affectionately. 

Even when he plays it totally straight, as in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Cider House Rules (1999) and the woefully underrated An Unfinished Life (2005), he seems to direct with a wand, like an orchestra leader with his baton, scattering touching aphorisms and showing creative thinking in the minds of his characters.  I also sense that I am being offered his films on a beautiful silver platter for me to sample as I like.  The films that I have mentioned are my favorites of the talented Swede.  He is a current director whose work I would make a special effort to see.

Of course, if you read my post on Ewan McGregor-- and it's not too late if you haven't (hint... hint)-- you already know that I don't miss Ewan McGregor.  Just doesn't happen.  And as outlined in that post, not all of his films, in my opinion, warrant his talents or my time.  But this is one film that does.  I found it thoroughly enjoyable as did my two companions. 

It is about a fabulously wealthy sheikh who wants to introduce salmon into the waters of his country so that the people will have a resource available to them under which they can prosper.  He has the idea and the coins but not the know-how.  He needs to find someone and for that we have a second character in the form of a woman who brokers the deal.  She has only just acquired a new boyfriend and who ups and trots off to war.  She does find a fisheries expert who is wary of the whole thing and thinks the sheikh has way too much money and time on his hands and a completely silly and unworkable idea.

The fish guy-- we'll call him Ewan-- is ending a marriage and will have his job ended for him if he doesn't take on the task of bringing these salmon to Yemen.  So off he goes.  You know a romance is going to develop and some of the fun is watching that all unfold.

I am a romance freak so I can get a little misty-eyed now and then over the loving things people can say to others or the threat of romances pulling apart.  To see a heart-warming project, like what these characters are proposing, look like it may be sabotaged and then wonder will it work or won't it really gets my audience member juices flowing.  It was lovely seeing people from two nations get along and cooperate and work with one another and exchange ideas freely and kindly.

There was humor as well and I chuckled a number of times.  Most of it comes out of McGregor's and Blunt's characters jockeying for position.  As the befuddled, uptight, mannered scientist, McGregor was a total delight getting to speak with his natural accent for a change, displaying that toothy grin and making with the mirth. 

Blunt was no less credible.  She and McGregor both underplay it to perfection, putting just the right touches to their styles.  I did not take a shine to her when I first became aware of her work.  This, in itself, is not how it usually works with me because if one has U.K. blood coarsing through one's veins, my attention is complete.  Even in The Devil Wears Prada, a film I quite liked, I didn't take much interest.  And then Sunshine Cleaning... omg, don't even get me started.  I always found her to appear sad and rather worn out.  Laughing didn't see to come easily to her nor did a smile sit comfortably on her face.  But once I saw her on some talk shows, I changed my mind.  Maybe the marriage to John Krasinski is just what the doctor ordered. Gone is the sadness, replaced by a fresh brighter, eager look that is charming.  I am happy when I come around on actors.

I don't want to ignore the supporting cast.  Kristin Scott Thomas provides a lot of humor as the British Prime Minister's public relations Girl Friday.  The other three I had not heard of but Amr Waked was regal and handsome as the sheikh and Tom Mison and Rachael Stirling both turned in spot-on performances as the respective other halves.

A test for me on any film is... would I own it?  Of course I would.  It had delightful acting, an interesting story with a finale worth waiting for.  It is drama, it is comedy, it is understated in that British sort of way and it was worth my time and money.  Oh, wait I didn't pay,  Ok now I like it even more.

NEXT POSTING:  Laurence Harvey

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