COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 47min
STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Amr Waked
Hooked: Blunt and McGregor
If ever a film title were a self-contradiction, Yemen is that animal-slash-fish. Salmon don’t ask for much, God knows, but cool, oxygenated water is not negotiable. When a “visionary” Yemeni sheikh’s PR (Blunt as Harriet Chetwode-Talbot) runs his plan to introduce salmon fishing to the arid Middle East past hidebound fisheries wonk Dr Alfred Jones (McGregor), Alfred is adamant it’s impossible. But the British PM’s sardonic press officer, Patricia Maxwell (Scott-Thomas), is on the hunt for that other self-contradiction, a feel-good Middle East news story. And since money is no object, off they all trot.
The sheikh (Waked) emerges as a dazzlingly loaded and urbane philosopher, and director Lasse Hallström’s idiosyncratic number — scripted by Simon Beaufort from Paul Torday’s 2007 novel — as a marriage of madness and romance. (“This crazy enterprise might just come off,” Alfred marvels.) Maybe that should be the madness of romance, for who but a confirmed idealist would plonk 10,000 salmon where they’ve no business being? Think of swimming upstream as an analogy for the challenges of life. In any case, woolly interludes and distracting asides included, this does just about work.