Hope is a Powerful Thing
by Mark Dispenza
The line between vision and insanity can be a fine one, as Dr. Alfred Jones, a drab government fisheries expert played by Ewan McGregor, discovers in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
When Dr. Jones first receives a call from Harriet (Emily Blunt), he believes her client's idea to build a dam and introduce fly-fishing to the arid country of Yemen to be totally absurd, and he informs her of that in the most direct manner possible. Harriet's client, Sheik Muhammed (Amr Waked), has become enamored of fishing for salmon in the streams that border his estate in the UK. He dreams of introducing the cold water fish to his home in the desert by constructing an elaborate waterworks and shipping 10,000 salmon there to spawn.
Despite his better judgement, Dr. Jones is compelled to cooperate when the UK Prime Minister's office, desperate for a feel-good story from the Middle East to counteract war news from Afghanistan and Iraq, hears of the plan and decides the project is the positive diversion they're looking for. Kristen Scott Thomas is priceless as the Prime Minister's press secretary, who has yet to encounter a situation she can't spin to the Prime Minister's advantage. Thomas plays her part as a caricature of the typical government press secretary and shines in the role, earning most of the laughs in the film.
Kristin Scott Thomas
I will classify this film as "light comedy," although honestly, it often seemed as if the filmmakers couldn't decide if they wanted to go for the laugh or go for the cry, and most of the scenes carry one or the other of those tones. The end result is cathartic, which is what most great dramatic stories aspire to be. The bottom line is that it somehow all works and winds up as a very entertaining story.
Part of the credit goes to the outstanding cast. McGregor's understated humor works well against Blunt's emotional energy, and the two of them have great on-screen chemistry. Waked's stately dignity and optimism smooths over the rough edges, and Thomas is a force unto herself.
Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who was Oscar-nominated for Chocolat and whose other credits include What's Eating Gilbert Grape and The Cider House Rules. The screenplay was written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) from the novel by Paul Torday.
The story is about the power of hope and vision in the most dire of circumstances. Dr. Jones will discover that Sheik Muhammed is not so mad after all, and his crazy project is part of an even greater plan. It will also also inspire him to leave his own mediocre life behind and reach for something better and a whole lot more satisfying in life and in love.
Sometimes vision comes in a moment of inspiration, and sometimes you have to go look for it.