If you’re looking for a romantic comedy with a difference, it’s hard to beat Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Mainstream movies these days tend to fall into fewer categories as the years go by. There’s the superhero adaptation, which is very much a hit-or-miss experience that’s primarily a must-see for comic geeks; the CGI-tastic event aimed at teens that looks fantastic but lacks anything original or interesting at its heart; and the romantic comedy that’s aimed at a largely female audience. Oh, and that Woody Allen film about Paris.
Very rarely does a mainstream movie come along that has an unwieldy and unattractive title; a political backdrop as sensitive as the Middle East; and is also aimed directly at a rom-com audience. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has all three. And it’s great fun.
Let’s get the basics out of the way: Ewan McGregor stars as Dr Alfred Jones, a somewhat introverted scientist at the British Department of Fisheries and Agriculture. His life is slowly stagnating, until the British PM’s spokesperson, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), appoints him to a scheme hatched by a fly fishing-obsessed Sheikh (Amr Waked), who wants to introduce salmon to his native Yemen.
So far, so bizarre. McGregor plays impressively as Fred, but things really take off when the Sheikh’s representative, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), joins him on his journey. Initially the two are at loggerheads, but as the tale gathers pace – well, you know how these things work.
Like all great experiences, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is all about the journey. And while the backdrop is a strange one for a romantic comedy, it does evoke daft-as-a-brush British films such as Ealing Studios’ Man in a White Suit, or more recent movies such as Local Hero.
As ever with a rom-com, it’s all about the chemistry between the protagonists, and even Ewan McGregor regards his performance here as close to a career high - we wouldn’t disagree. As for Emily Blunt, it would seem that the best is yet to come from this effortlessly engaging English actress. At 29, she’s already got an impressive CV, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is one of three movies she stars in this summer. If her performances in The Five-Year Engagement and Your Sister’s Sister are as good as the one here as Harriet, she’s going to be extremely hot property.