Posted October 11, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Note: This review *may* contain a few minor spoilers – no specific details, though, aside from a plot summary. Pics were taken from good ol’ Google Image Search.
Lionsgate, Pioneer Films/Movie Punch
Philippine Release: October 10, 2012
Rated PG
107 minutes

Science and faith are like two wives of the same man; they try to get along when everyone’s looking, but end up dropping all pretense and claiming greater legitimacy over the other as they try to claw each other’s eyes out. The question of which one is more valid over the other (spoiler: it’s science, bitches) has been around for almost as long as Juan Ponce Enrile has served in the Philippine government (though I think Manong Johnny’s been at it for much longer – citation TOTALLY needed). There are rare instances, however, when these two find a way to work together and actually come up with something that miraculously doesn’t involve one party taking a thick volume, whether holy or scientific, and shoving it up the other’s tuchas.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, directed by Lasse Hallström, is based on the book of the same title by Paul Torday,whose own story of success is quite remarkable in itself. Salmon Fishing tells the story of how a government-employed scientist and unhappy husband, Fred (Ewan McGregor), finds himself pulled away from his daily 8-hour job as a salmon fisheries expert to work on a special project: to bring the sport of salmon fishing to the distant, deserty, and absolutely, undeniably dry country of Yemen. Naturally, Fred dismisses this as a downright stupid idea; however, after spending some time working with the wealthy sheik who invested in the project (Amr Waked) and his consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt), the incorrigible man of science starts to change his mind, and learns a thing or two about faith, love, and looking beyond the scientific side of things, in general.

Before writing this review, I had originally intended to look up a few things related to salmon fishing and farming. This is because a lot of the plot points in the film (which I won’t spoil here, in case you haven’t read the book yet) depend heavily on things that the characters in the film blindly anticipated, even to the extent of predicting behavior that goes directly against certain expectations proven by conventional science. However, I realized that doing that would in itself mean going directly against the point of the film, and thus I’ve decided to evaluate the film based solely on its own merits and leave the epic science-ing to the experts in the audience.

S-stupid sexy experts…

Well…It’s not particularly memorable. It’s one of those feel-good movies that’ll make you feel like a new person, ready to take on the world and so much wiser than the rest of the materialistic, less understanding people in your social circle, for all of the 20 seconds it’ll take you to get up from your seat and walk out of the cinema.

The story is very basic and simple. Sure, there are a few subplots and twists, but there’s really nothing here that’ll really surprise you, or that you wouldn’t expect. (Of course, you probably already know that this isn’t two hours of fishing videos, right?) It also doesn’t hurt that Emily Blunt kind of looks like a PG-13 version of Katy Perry, making the film easier on the eyes and more than making up for ten minutes’ worth of screentime devoted to Ewan McGregor’s hairy chest. Yeah, I’m not kidding.

Oh, and the accent McGregor chose to stick with for this film sounds a bit forced at times, but I guess it worked with the whole “uptight British scientist with Aspergers” thing he had going on. Salmon Fishing also shows, without a doubt, that Obi-Wan Kenobi is just as good with a fishing rod as he is with a lightsaber.

The Force is upstream in this one, Master.

The problem with Salmon Fishing is that it’s just…there. Sure, we see the grand scale of the sheik’s plan to construct an artificial salmon habitat in the middle of the dessert, and they even show the giant dam and all, but for some reason it just fails to resonate with me. Maybe I would have appreciated the film more if I had read the book beforehand? The movie is a tad too preachy for me, with its “science hand in hand with faith” lesson (among other things, which I won’t spoil here) feeling a little too forced. I DID appreciate how the movie ended, though – it’s not a perfect picture of happiness, and it adds a little bit of reality to a movie revolving almost completely around blind faith.

VERDICT: 2.5/5

If you’re a fan of Ewan McGregor, you’ll probably enjoy this film. I can’t exactly advocate watching a movie that isn’t really powerful enough to elicit any solid reaction from me and left me with very few lasting impressions or lessons, but…well, go. Watch it, or at the very least wait for it to be out on DVD or Blu-Ray. Say no to piracy, kids!

A big big “thank you!” goes out to our friends from Ayala Cinemas for the special screening of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – be sure to Like them on Facebook!

Mikael Angelo Francisco