Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

For those who like to be ‘fly’

W ould I be a fan of this movie if I liked fishing? Hmmmm. How about if I liked bizarre wastes of money? Hmmmm. How about if it were just a better movie? Yes. That I can agree with 100%. I’ve never quite understood the magic of fishing and that goes double for salmon fishing. Have you seen these things move? They’re constantly fighting the current, going upstream which, IMHO, makes it the most predictable and stationary fish there is. Didn’t catch any salmon today? What, did you forget you had hands?

Before I go on, I will issue a general apology to all fisherpeople out there – I really don’t know jack about your “sport.” For all I know, salmon are the most devious little shits on the planet and catching them requires a PhD in Marine Biology and myriad combinations of Wile E. Coyote ACME spring traps. Hence, super geniuses, I salute you.

Believe it or not, the plot to this film isn’t nearly as far-fetched as suggested. Billionaire Yemeni sheikh Muhammed bin Zaidi bani Tihama (Amr Waked) wants to bring salmon fishing to his homeland, which, if you think about it, isn’t any sillier than relocating the Raiders to Las Vegas. It simply requires an insane capital outlay and a lot of people willing to indulge a bad idea. The sheikh’s Anglo-pawn, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, 2011 winner of the award for “most English movie name,” starts buggin’ expert-on-fisheries Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor). Alfred laughs himself silly, of course, but then bad stuff happens in the Middle East and suddenly the PM needs a PR win, so press secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) decides this idiocy deserves attention.

Gosh, imagine that: a western nation deliberately searching for positive non-political PR in the Middle East. Are you sure you don’t wish to demonize an entire people and their religion? You wouldn’t be the first; you certainly won’t be the last.

What exactly does it take to bring Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a place where the fish are not native, nor used to equator-like temperatures? Advanced immediate spontaneous species evolution (“punctuated equilibrium”)? The combined efforts of every Sea World employee across the globe? An act of God? [Read: a really stupid and hauntingly specific act of God] And, of course, you can’t put random pretty people in a movie with hinting they’ll get together, and, check it out, both Alfred and Harriet (Emily Blunt) have relationship issues. Alfred’s issues are so ugly, I actually wrote this moment down: after sex, his girlfriend shoves Alfred aside and coldly utters, “That should do you for a while.” Gee, I wonder why you guys aren’t married.

I suppose the bizarre combination title/premise beats it’s converse “Yemeni Fishing in the Salmon,” a sister film in which 10,000 men, women and children are shipped from the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula and dropped in the waters of Idaho only to be captured again individually by local sportsmen.

Truth is, I was willing to play along with this plot for a while. Sure, I’m game. How do you get salmon to breed in this part of the world? Several poor conversations and odd subplots later, I was on the brink of shutting down. I didn’t officially tune out, however, until the part where Alfred foils an assassination attempt with a well-placed cast. The guy with the gun lost to the guy with a fishing pole. Yeah. OK. Forgive me if I’m not “hooked.”

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen seems to have a good heart, but it’s self-consumed by dead-end plots and awkward conversations. If the world’s fishing folks still feel underrepresented in the cinema, I suggest they watch A River Runs Through It. Again.

♪When you fish and you’re a czar
You can cast for dinosaur
No one calls your choice “bizarre”
Your streams come true♫

Rated PG-13, 107 Minutes
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Genre: The stupidity of wealth
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Fishermen
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Yemenis

♪ Parody Inspired by “When You Wish Upon A Star”

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