A Sport of Patience
Movie Review: "SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN"
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 14:03
Director Lasse Hallstrom’s oeuvre is littered with cute-but-disposable romantic films, everything from “CHOCOLAT” and “THE CIDER HOUSE RULES” to his most recent success “DEAR JOHN”. His latest film, “SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN”, may not win him any converts – but his fans have reason to rejoice. “SALMON FISHING” is both extremely cute, and extremely disposable.
Those straining to find subtext beneath the plot, which features a frazzled scientist played by Ewan McGregor falling for a Sheik’s assistant (played by Emily Blunt) as they try to use Royal money to bring salmon fishing to the deserts of Yemen, will likely be offended by stark generalities made about both the western world and our enemies (the faceless terrorist antagonists aren’t even granted the dignity of an ideology.) “SALMON” drags in servicemen, prime ministers, and spurned lovers – and then dumps them all out of the narrative without a second’s hesitation so that it can reach the most typical (and predictable) ending in sight. But if you resist any socially responsible/critically conscious reactions and watch the film solely as a nerdy-guy-meets-and-wins-over-an-exceedingly-gorgeous-woman story (and who doesn’t love those?) then you’ll probably be charmed by the good-natured kindness each actor brings to their role.
And none of them more than Amr Waked as Sheikh Muhammad; he exudes charisma and confidence as the man who brings the project together. It’s not an incredibly complex role – he’s a man of faith, never flailing in his convictions – but he plays it with such charm, with such a suave touch, that he (and his quest) become the de-facto heart of the film. It’s not often an actor is so likeable that you find yourself more interested in him than in the main narrative, but Waked pulls it off.
Like the movie itself, his character is immensely delightful and totally one-dimensional. Hallstrom throws subplot after subplot at us – the alternate love interests for Blunt and McGregor are especially unnecessary/rote – but they feel like nothing more than roadblocks on the way to an entirely obvious conclusion. And the film certainly isn’t helped by comparisons to “BIG MIRACLE”, released just a couple months ago, which navigated a very similar plot while sketching far more complex characters (and it found room for a surprise or two in the finale, too.)
Still, “SALMON” is an exceedingly cute date movie; often charming and often funny, it won me over despite its flimsier points. You may not remember the details days later, but it’s fun while it lasts.