Saturday, July 7, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: A Refreshing Romance

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is based on a bestselling British novel and simply radiates British humor and charm. I suppose it has to be classified as both a romance and a comedy, but it certainly does not fit my idea of a romcom. Instead it's a remarkably light and airy story that will leave you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

The story (as given away by the title) concerns a Yemeni Sheikh who decides that he wants to introduce the sport of salmon fishing to his native country. He hires consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt in perhaps one of the most endearing roles I've seen her play) who promptly contacts Dr. Alfred "Fred" Jones, a government expert on salmon fisheries. Fred is played charmingly by Ewan McGregor, who does a wonderful job of getting you to root for this extremely mild-mannered and seemingly humorless man.

As insane as it might seem, the idea gets off to a flying start once the British government decides it is desperately in need of a "feel-good news story out of the Middle East." Despite Fred's protestations, Harriet gets him to gradually acknowledge that the scheme is theoretically possible, if not yet practical. They start to spend more time with the Sheikh in his estate in Scotland and his faith and enthusiasm for the idea is infectious, making Fred increasingly excited about this outrageous scheme.

What about romance? Well at first it doesn't seem likely - Fred is married to a very practical Scottish woman. Their marriage is conventional and boring, much like Fred. Harriet, in the meantime, has spent three very romantic weeks with Robert, a soldier who is then deployed to Afghanistan. She promises to wait for him, but tragedy strikes and he is declared MIA. Fred convinces her to come down to Yemen and throw herself into the salmon fishing project rather than wallowing in her flat and waiting to hear if Robert has been found. Really, neither of these characters seem like they might be in the ideal place for romance. But that's where you'd be wrong.

The movie proceeds slowly and steadily, brimming with gorgeous landscapes, gentle humor, and surprising twists and turns. Kristin Scott Thomas provides plenty of comic relief as the Prime Minister's press secretary who is desperate to spin this story into something that will garner votes in the next election. In the meantime, Blunt and McGregor are just wonderful as two very different people who are gradually discovering that they might be meant for each other.

This movie is like a cup of chamomile tea. It won't shake up your world and change your life, but it is soothing, gentle, and beautiful. So curl up with on the weekend and remind yourself that a romantic comedy doesn't always have to be a slapstick romp. Instead it can just be a heartwarming story about two people who fall in love.

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