A talented cast saved this English film from ignominy, although some parts of it were worth watching. The scenery and choreography were exquisite even though the movie was filmed in Scotland and not in the Yemen.
The unlikely tale surrounds a sheik (Amr Waked) who has a dream of bringing his favorite sport of fly-fishing to his country. His hope is that the prime minister of England will agree to send 10,000 North Atlantic salmon to Yemen from Britain. The sheik’s public relations expert, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), has the task of insuring that this dream will materialize.
Harriet contacts Britain’s most prominent fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), to take care of the details. Dr. Jones declares that the project is absurd and fundamentally unfeasible. However, the PM’s press secretary, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), sees the scheme as an opportunity to foster friendly relations between Britain and Yemen. Dr. Jones is coerced by his superiors to take part in the project, albeit against his judgment.
Dr. Jones and Harriet are sent to Yemen to meet with the sheik (which word is pronounced “shake” by the British). They are impressed with the integrity and enthusiasm of the sheik and Jones is gradually taken in by the possibility of pulling off the impossible. The fact that the sheik is willing to fund the venture with 50 million English pounds does sweeten the pot. He also finds Harriet’s presence highly compatible and begins to enjoy his stay in Yemen.
The viewer has already witnessed a scene between Jones and his highly professional executive wife discussing her need to travel for six months for her job. The marriage seems ready to dissolve as Jones leaves for Yemen. Harriet, we learn, has a newfound love in Robert, an army officer who has just been deployed to Afghanistan. Thus, the possibility of her seeing Dr. Jones as a romantic interlude does not enter her mind.
Although the prime minister’s office does turn down the request for 10,000 fresh salmon, Dr. Jones feels that farmed salmon can be taught to swim upstream which is a condition of successful fly-fishing in any venue. He and Harriet arrange with the sheik to proceed with the plan.
Altering the topography of Yemen with running streams and concrete embankment is just one obstacle that Jones and Harriet must overcome. A group of dissidents in Yemen is totally against the project, viewing it as an attempt to westernize their country. They provide a grave danger to the completion of the project.
Meanwhile, the budding friendship between Dr. Jones and Harriet has starts and stops as well as major complications. On the whole, the story went down well, even with its many flaws of unbelievability. It does provide two hours of enjoyment and escape for the viewer willing to stay with the project.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)