FISHING IN THE YEMEN (director:
screenwriter: based on the novel by Paul Torday/Simon Beaufoy;
Stacey; editor: Lisa Gunning; music: Dario Marianelli;
cast: Emily Blunt
(Harriet Chetwode-Talbot), Ewan McGregor (Dr. Alfred
Jones), Kristin Scott Thomas (Patricia Maxwell), Amr
Waked (the Sheik, Muhammad),
Tom Mison (Robert), Rachael Stirling (Mary
Jones), Conleth Hill (Bernard Sugden); Runtime: 107; MPAA
Rating: PG-13; producer: Paul Webster; CBS Films; 2011)
"Guts most of the edgy features of the novel."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström ("Chocolat"/"The Cider House Rules"/"My Life As a Dog") takes the snap out of Paul Torday’s 2007 comic bestseller on the Blair government getting bent out of shape to back a loopy project to promote Anglo-Arab relations. Writer Simon Beaufoy guts most of the edgy features of the novel to bring it into line as a familiar syrupy Hallström feel-good romcom, with the politics diluted as merely background for a bland romantic tale. Good acting by the stars considerably lifts this pedestrian film from being mired in the mud.
A wealthy, eccentric,
visionary sheik from Yemen, Sheik Muhammad (Amr Waked), believes his
obsession for salmon fishing in Scotland can be
brought to his hostile desert country to give his
people new hope for the future and is willing to spare
no expenses for the project.
Harriet (Emily Blunt) is a sharp
single London businesswoman agent for the Brit public
relation company the sheik hired to represent him with
selling the idea to the Brit government. Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is the stuffed-shirt
careerist working at the government's fishery
department as a fishing expert, who finds the idea
ridiculous but is forced to change his mind when his
political savvy bureaucratic boss (Conleth Hill) is visited by the the PM's
haughty press secretary, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), who wants to use this
project to promote better relations between Great
Britain and the Arab countries of the Middle-East. Her
eyes widen when she learns that there are over 2
million fishermen in her country who are voters and
that the seemingly impossible project might work after
all because Dr. Jones has a plan of shipping 10,000 North
Atlantic salmon to Yemen that can be carried out
because of the unique construction work on the dam
accomplished by Chinese engineers.
Romance surprisingly comes
about between the married Jones when he has a midlife
crisis and realizes he's in a loveless marriage with
his cold careerist businesswoman wife Mary (Rachael Stirling) and that he's attracted
to the lively Harriet, who found out her soldier
boyfriend Robert (Tom Mison), of three weeks, is MIA in Afghanistan and is
presumed to be dead.
Complexities arise on all
fronts from terrorist attacks on the project, the
progressive sheik saddened his people don't appreciate
his gift to them, the bitter reaction Mary has when
hubby is forced to tell her he loves Harriet, and with
the safe return of Robert forcing Harriet to choose
between the rivals.
In spite of the film
offering many good scenes, a promise of an
unpredictable screenplay, attractive location shots (Morocco subbing for Yemen), charming performances by
the leads, the feel-good pic still turns out to be
predictable and superficial--as it hooks a fish that
has to be thrown back because it's too small.
REVIEWED ON 4/30/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ