Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (CBS Films)
Rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content, and brief language.
Starring Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Catherine Steadman, Rachael Stirling, Tom Mison, Steven Blake, Waleed Akhtar, Pippa Andre.
Written by Simon Beaufoy, Based on the novel by Paul Torday.
Directed by Lasse Hallström.
Romantic comedies are usually formulaic and forgettable, but once in a while you get a unique love story that goes against the current. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is one of those films, although it falls into some of the same cinematic pitfalls as most romantic comedies.
Ewan McGregor stars as Freddy, a British government fish expert with Asberger Syndrome. Emily Blunt plays Harriet, a consultant who works for a Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked). The sheik is an avid fisherman, and hires Harriet to see whether salmon can be planted in a particular Yemeni river, so that he can carry on his passion in his homeland, while providing water for farming and other industries to his people. At first, Freddy resists the idea as preposterous, but the British prime minister's press secretary Bridget Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) sees the idea as good PR, and presses the pair to forge on.
Meanwhile, Harriet's boyfriend is shipped off to fight in the Afghan war, and Freddy marriage to his wife Mary (Rachael Stirling) is strained after years of passionless indifference. As the idea takes off, Freddy and Harriet grow close to one another and begin to buy into the sheik's vision. As the project nears completion, the sheik's Arabic opponents sabotage their efforts as Freddy and Harriet deal with their romantic feelings for each other.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a funny, fresh, and unique romantic comedy - for the first 2/3 of the movie. The last 1/3 falls apart as the sloppy plot unfolds and cliches abound.
Ewan McGregor's performance as the autistic man who must learn to step out of his routine is notable and charming. As always, Emily Blunt is radiant and stands out as one of the most watchable actresses working today. Amr Waked is equally intriguing as the sheik. Kristin Scott Thomas' portrayal as the foul-mouthed, shrewd political leader provides most of the best laughs.
It's a shame that such a unique idea falls apart at the end, but like a salmon running upstream, the idea deserves merit for at least trying.