“Salmon Fishing” appeals to our highest sense and sensibilities. It takes us into territory we have not visited since being swept away by “On Golden Pond.”
Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor) is called upon to give expert advice on fly fishing and steadfastly considers this outrageous project to be a “bloody joke,” but money talks and lack of faith walks. “You must have faith,” exhorts his Excellency, Sheik Muhammed (Amr Waked).
Kristin Scott Thomas takes on an unusually harsh role as Patricia, the head of foreign affairs, who is intent on improving Yemeni-Anglo relations.
She’s brash, she’s abrupt, and she’s a bully, but she does her job well. Although she is clueless that her son is rebelling directly because of her brusqueness, she continues with her job of sprucing up the Prime Minister’s image. She decides to support a sheik’s dream of building a salmon fishing paradise in his home country of Yemen because it would be good for Anglo-Yemeni relations.
Turns out the sheik is quite the philosopher, dreamer and “visionary,” according to Harriett Chatworth-Tolbert (Blunt). It is her job to convince Dr. Jones (McGregor) to do the research to ensure its success.
In the meantime, Harriet has fallen in love with a soldier who is shipping out only three weeks after their meeting. Soon thereafter she hears he is missing in action and then she is devastated when it appears they have all been lost.
Dr. Jones is married and Harriet is grieving for her boyfriend, but this does not keep us from rooting for them to get together. The film interweaves this relationship with the story of the sheik who is being targeted by murderous tribesmen in Yemen.
Dr. Jones uses a fly fishing rod with deadly accuracy to save the sheik’s life just as Dr. Indiana Jones used a whip in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Impressive.
The sandwich scene is absolutely charming and informative. There is a mention of the condition called “Asperger’s” when Dr. Jones says, “Since I have no feelings, then you can say what you like and it won’t bother me a bit.”
Those with Asperger’s Syndrome are unfeeling at times.
Mary, Dr. Jones’ wife, is sexually and emotionally distant, but is heartbroken when she learns she is now playing second fiddle to his new love interest. She wishes she had cherished and appreciated what she had.
Throughout the movie there are many strains of logic and playing around with the particulars of the events, but isn’t that true of any dreamy romance or adventure story?
Just as supporting the salmon fishing project is a publicity event for the Prime Minister, the movie itself seems to be a thinly veiled attempt to improve relations between the West and the Middle East. The movie crew is a melding of the two worlds.
The music is superb, the acting sublime, and the motives exquisite. “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is the small-film triumph of the year.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexual content and brief language.
If you feel your spouse has Asperger’s, give me a call, we’ll talk.
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