I had short listed about 18 films I would want to watch from the whole gamut of different films showcased in Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Salmon Fishing In The Yemen was not one of them. So it was a pleasant surprise, how enjoyable and moving the movie turned out to be.
Adopted from Paul Torday‘s bestselling novel by the same name, the movie is about a Fisheries expert Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) who was forced against his wishes to work out a plausible way for a multi-billionaire Sheikh (Amr Waked) to enjoy salmon fishing in the heart of Yemen. When Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), the representative of the Sheikh approaches Fred with the preposterous idea, Fred tries everything in his power to discourage her and make her see how ridiculous the whole concept was, till he meets the Sheikh himself. Fred, a staunch scientist, was devoid of the finer nuances of emotion and to him everything was an equation. Things that add up and things that don’t. Projects, relationships, future planning, everything follows a pattern and deflecting from that was not an option. This project was one of the things that doesn’t add up and the idea of wasting his valuable time and energy behind this madness was unacceptable to him. The political urgency to repair damaged relationship between the Yemen and the British governments, saw this as the best opportunity. The British Prime Minister’s spokesperson Bridget Maxwell ( Kristin Scott Thomas) takes it up on herself to publicize this project as a feel good and generous gesture of the British government towards the Middle-East , making it impossible for Fred to back off from it. Harriet, who described the Sheikh as a “visionary” , if ever had any doubts herself about this frivolous project, never let her personal thoughts to clash with her work.
After a few meetings with the Sheikh, Fred watched in mute horror his own departure from the world of science and cautiously entering the Sheikh’s world of faith, dreams and visions to do something for his people, the rush of thinking out of the box and the pleasure of witnessing it turn to reality.
The movie is not a love story, or about relationships, but director Lesse Hallstrom nourishes every character with much love and affection and effortlessly weaves their individual lives along the main storyline without compromising the flow of the movie. Fred’s practical approach to his life’s problems, Harriet’s emotional struggle to cope with her personal losses help the viewers relate to the characters easily. The amazing cinematography captured the rustic, raw, landscape of Yemen and the plush locales of Scottish highlands and the result was breathtaking. The comedy was subtle, chaste and felt as fresh as minty chewing gum.
Only an ace director like Hallstrom can delve deep inside the viewers psyche and evoke simultaneously a myriad of emotions so that when you finally leave the theatre wiping away the tears, your heart soars with hope and optimism and have a big smile firmly plastered on your lips.