As an angler, I eagerly anticipated the release of the DVD of this film, based on the book of the same name written by Paul Torday and published by Widenfeld & Nicolson in 2007. It promised much: ‘Certain to put a smile of your Face’, Woman’s Own; ‘Loads of laughs and charm, let yourself get swept away’, Daily Star Sunday; ‘Fantastic!’ Sunday Mirror; ‘Hugely Enjoyable’, TV Times; ‘Delightful’, Variety; ‘The British Comedy of the Year’, Woman & Home.
Sadly, for me it did not deliver. Comparisons are odious, but it was inevitable that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen would be measured, at least by anglers, against the standard set in Robert Redford’s wonderful 1992 film, A River Runs Through It. The fishing interludes, casting and playing fish sequences in that film were entirely believable and convincing.
The reverse is true in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott Thomas didn’t seem to have a clue. Watching them was, quite frankly, embarrassing. In one scene, Ewan McGregor – playing the part of a government fishery scientist, Fred Jones who has been detailed to lead the project of introducing salmon to the Yemen – meets Sheikh Muhammad whose idea it was and who is funding the scheme. This scene is set at Ardverikie House, on Loch Laggan, Inverness-shire.
The pair go fishing and we see them entering a river, the River Roy near Spean Bridge, side by side and both carrying salmon rods, the Sheikh, up his waist in the stream and wearing his flowing white robes. Other shots show them fishing a few yards apart, and really, it just becomes more laughable the more it goes on. I suppose that if you are not an angler and don’t know Scotland, then where they are and what they are supposed to be doing doesn’t matter? Emily Blunt, provides the essential romantic edge to the film and plays her part well.
The end of the film bears only a passing relationship to Paul Torday’s book and I will not be watching the film again; I had to watch it twice because I nodded off the first time. That is more than enough excitement for me.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Directed by Lasse Hallström.
Distributed by Lionsgate (in the UK), CBS Films (in the USA)
Available from Amazon, £11.99