The current slate of films set to be release includes remakes, countless sequels, re-boots, and various other recycled ideas that audiences are eventually going to be sick of. Then there's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a movie with an odd name that deals with issues of cultural awareness and attempting to achieve the impossible.
It's fresh, funny, compelling, inspiring, and not the kind of thing mass audiences run out and see...but they should. Films like this could potentially regenerate the crumbling film industry and prove Hollywood has the ability to tell stories that recall the days of cinematic glory.
Though some critics have called the film out for having racist undertones, they are forgetting that one positive representation of the Muslim world, however flawed, is a massive step in a direction that Western films rarely go in. Salmon Fishing focuses on the ability to have faith, even when as the world is ravaged by war. It features beautiful shots of London, Scotland, and of course Yemen (which will likely experience an increase in Western visitors now). The plot concerns a wealthy Yemenis man, Sheikh Mohammed (played with great depth by Egyptian actor Amr Waked) who longs to bring salmon fishing to his people. He instructs his British representative, Harriet (a radiant Emily Blunt) to make this dream possible. To do so she enlists the aid of fisheries expert, Fred, (the ever lovable Ewan McGregor). He refuses, but is coerced by the Prime Minister's ruthless PR woman, Patricia Maxwell (a hilarious Kristin Scott Thomas). Maxwell believes that a heartwarming story from the Middle East will alley the public's disdain for Britain's participation in war. What follows are several trips to Yemen in which Harriet and Fred must endure one another's company and carry out the impossible.
One of the film's major strengths is that it shies away from the overused rom-com formula. Harriet is pinning for her hunky soldier boyfriend, Robert (Tom Mison), while Fred is coasting by in functional marriage. Both of their significant others are not particularly unlikable. In fact, Robert is too likable. The pair is forced to recognize one another's strengths but the possibility of a romance seems unlikely. As they bask in the natural beauty that the Middle East has to offer, they begin to evolve and see the gaping holes in their lives. Blunt and McGregor's chemistry evokes that of classic film pairings. Their impeccably written scenes together progress dramatically from their comical first encounter to the moment Fred sweetly confesses his affection.
A major reason the film works so well is that it's served by an incredible creative team. This includes director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat) and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire). Both had the challenge of adapting Paul Torday's novel of the same name, which is told through letters and e-mails rather than a traditional narrative structure. Yet they succeed in staying true to the novel's message that no matter how hopeless something is, it's worth the adventure. Salmon Fishing is a beautifully written exploration of the human spirit that you're not likely to see on-screen again for some time.