By now, I should know what to expect from a Lasse Hallström picture. Though I will not go so far as to call him the Nicholas Sparks of directors, I will say that his works are formulaic in the same sense. (Perhaps this comparison is not entirely unfounded; Hallström did direct Dear John, after all.) There are bound to be esoterically beautiful settings, characters with baggage, and tangled love stories. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is no exception.
In an attempt to smooth over the United Kingdom’s international political tensions, the Prime Minister’s public relations consultant Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) begins searching for a lighthearted news story of peaceful relations. She comes across a fledgling plan that would bring salmon fishing to the Yemen region of Western Asia. After some back and forth between executive Harriet (Emily Blunt) and fisheries expert Fred (Ewan McGregor), the two find themselves traveling to Yemen. There they befriend Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) who sees the project as an opportunity to enrich and unify his community. His involvement with Harriet and Fred takes many forms–business partner, friend, and spiritual guide; he not-so-subtly suggests that the logistics of bringing salmon to the region is a matter of faith as well as science.
Though the whole “don’t stop believing” theme may seem better suited for a Journey song, it does have its (contrived) place in the film. (See above: characters with baggage.) Early on, Harriet’s boyfriend of three weeks gets sent to Afghanistan on military duty; she agrees to wait for him but soon presumes he has died. Fred, meanwhile, finds himself growing all the more distant from his wife and ever closer to Harriet. Their situations make for a rather textbook example of complicated romance. (Interestingly enough, Fred’s wife–who never gets the chance to be perceived as a likable character–calls him out on having a “textbook” mid-life crisis.) Despite the obligatory ups and downs, everything–in salmon fishing and in love–wraps up rather neatly.
Perhaps the faith of the characters is responsible for the happy ending. More likely the film’s ”feel-good” status begets the final note of fluff. In either case, I suppose the ending is appropriate. The characters, as well as the actors who portray them, are totally endearing; unhappiness would have been an unwarranted fate indeed. I simply wish that their endearment was not limited to such a hackneyed plot line. That said, I cannot entirely dissuade one from going Salmon Fishing. Just do not expect to catch anything extraordinary.