If I could only use one word to summarize the British romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, it would undoubtedly be “charming.” This disclosure may seem slightly odd, considering the basic plot of the film, which involves relations with the Middle East. However, the music during the few potentially life-threatening scenes is not sinister enough to be indicative of any danger on the part of the protagonists. So, it follows that the movie is generally light-hearted.

Based on the book of the same name, this film begins with the proposal of an idealistic Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked) determined to bring peace to his war-battered country by introducing the sport of fly-fishing. His visionary scheme may be far-fetched, but if he doesn’t have the resources to follow through with it, then no one does. His fortune seems infinite; in fact, he owns a picturesque Scottish estate replete with a beautiful castle. Money, therefore, is not a problem, but the lack of 10,000 North Atlantic salmon that he requires to carry out his project is a different story.

Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), the sheik’s British representative, brings this idea to the attention of Parliament, as well as British fisheries expert Dr. Alfred “Fred” Jones (Ewan McGregor). Originally averse to the sheik’s plan, Fred spends a good portion of the movie dismissing Harriet’s pleas. Of course, Fred eventually does come around, and from that point onward, the primary conflict in the film pertains more to romance than it does to fish.

While Fred’s marriage has been failing for some time, Harriet has only just begun a new relationship with Robert, a handsome soldier who is deployed in Afghanistan. By the time Robert goes missing, both Fred and Harriet are a mess, at least in terms of their respective relationships. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is the way in which their friendship blossoms out of their initial dislike for one another.

Despite the charm of the leading actors, the entertainment factor of the plot development occasionally wilts. In other words, something is always happening, but every so often it’s just boring. A great performance by Kristin Scott Thomas is successful in filling some of these gaps with her elitist snark as Patricia Maxwell, the fiery press secretary to the British prime minister. Her snappy dialogue and humorous one-track mind of preserving a favorable image of the country’s foreign relations offers a necessary contrast with the mellowness of Fred and Harriet, but other parts of the film remain bland.

A common occurrence for romantic comedies is for the two leads to be completely likeable, and while watching a preview, you might say, “Oh, I’ll see that because I love both of those actors.” The actual movie, though, turns out to be a disappointment (Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice come particularly to mind). While Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not a flop, an audience’s reaction to the film may resemble that scenario to a certain degree. It’s even more surprising that this movie doesn’t flourish due to the other names that went into its development, such as director Lasse Hallstrom of Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, or screenwriter Simon Beaufoy of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. With the brainpower from the creative team and an attractive cast, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has the makings of a great indie film, but unfortunately it falls short on substance.

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