Seems to me one of the most common accusations levelled at some films is that they’re predictable. And of course they are. Most films are made to be sold, and sold within a particular genre. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen deftly avoids such categorisation, and is one of the best character-driven films I’ve ever seen.
Of course the problem faced by film makers who choose material like this is how to sell it. Having seen clips for it, I mostly dismissed it, and only made the effort to see it when I had just seen a whole bunch of films and wanted another. It was not my first choice, but of all the films I’ve seen this week (and I’ve seen a lot more than usual this week), this was the best.
The story is centred on a couple of public servants who find themselves at the centre of an exercise in international relations. Emily Blunt plays a consummate professional who has mastered the art of eternal optimism. And Ewan McGregor plays an infinitely more staid and predictable realist. These two find themselves pursuing the whimsical dream of a Yemeni Sheikh, played engagingly by Amr Waked, to introduce the sport of Salmon fishing to his dry homeland.
The story charts an unpredictable course through the ups and downs of the project, but along the way the central characters, even the Sheikh to some extent, become intensely human as they navigate life. It sounds corny, I suppose, but this really is an intensely human story, with all the pathos you could wish for, and none of the schmaltz. How screenwright Simon Beaufort and novelist Paul Torday managed this, I don’t know, but I take my hat off to them. I wish I could be relied upon to write like that.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has become one of my favourite films, just like that.