Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a feel-good hit

FILM
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
Cert 12A | By Zoe Strimpel
****

A beautiful young woman named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) works for an unrealistically glossy PR company in London. She has a client: a sheikh, who has a dream to create a river in the desert land of the Yemen, import Scottish salmon and make them “run”, so they can be fished for sport. As she starts work on making his wildly impossible-sounding dream reality, she begins a passionate affair with an army recruit who – after three weeks – is sent to Afghanistan. News from the Middle East suddenly becomes a far more personal affair for Ms Chetwode-Talbot.

Meanwhile, civil servant and fisheries expert Ewan McGregor, AKA Dr Alfred Jones, wiles away his days in a grey office at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Rude, bored and difficult, he’s anything but charming, and very geeky.

Around this time, a mosque is blown up in a part of the Middle East in which the British military are stationed, news of which wakes Kristen Scott Thomas’s very amusing super-mum Patricia Maxwell at 4am. Crap, she shrieks in her wonderful cut glass way. Britain needs some good news coming from the Middle East. And now.

How convenient for the sheikh and Ms Chetwode-Talbot, as Dr Jones always makes a point of calling her. They’re about to get 10 Downing Street on board, and in a big way. And 10 Downing Street wants Jones on the case, whether he likes it or not (he doesn’t). To cut a very, very long story short: everyone moves heaven and earth to get Anglo-Yemeni relations glowing a salmon pink.

There are a few twists along the way: political, logistical and – you guessed it – romantic. To the film’s credit, Blunt’s character is more complex than your usual romantic heroine and McGregor’s anti-hero is helplessly likeable. The central love story is predictable and the best-of-British stars are up to far grittier stuff, but there’s just enough substance for the actors – and us – to sink the teeth into. You won’t emerge any the wiser intellectually, but as romantic feel-goods go, it’s not half bad.