Salmon Fishing in the Yemen sounds like some highfalutin' indie flick about idealism, love, fishing, and Yemen--and it is. But it fooled me into being charmed by its adorableness, thanks to the strangely cartoony characterizations and bouncy music. Of course it's all fun and games until things get serious, so it doesn't end as strongly as it begins; but the end of the baby Panda sneeze video is anti-climactic too, and it doesn't make the good part any less precious.
Don't be fooled by the dorky sweetness of the film--it demands a lot from its audience, so one runs the risk of getting left behind if they don't surrender their disbelief immediately. In this world, nerdy government workers like Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan MacGregor) bring impossibly sexy land agents (Emily Blunt) sandwiches when they are sad and wearing designer pajamas, and the press secretary to the Prime Minister (Kristin Scott Thomas) iChats with the Prime Minister in all caps asking whether or not he can fish. And to signal that times are a'changing, we even get to see a "Magical Arab" character (Amr Waked) use his profound connection to the Earth and his spirituality to teach us all a thing or two about faith.
The Magical Arab believes that if he generates an ecosystem that begins with spawning salmon in a newly created river, his people will band together and ensure a bright future for themselves. Dr. Jones and Harriet help him out, against all odds, and are egged on by the cutthroat press secretary who just needs a positive news story to come out of the Middle East to distract people for awhile. One of my favorite things about the film is how it reminded me that Kristin Scott Thomas is so funny that through talent alone, she can make a supporting role feel like the most important part of the whole experience. She steals the show, although everyone very effortlessly is just a half-step behind her.
Although watching Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor fall for each other feels like a watching a cute, drawn-out pillow fight, the movie starts to grind to a halt as you get closer to The Lesson. Dramatic exchanges and forlorn glances take away from the quirkiness of the beginning, and it soon becomes clear that you'll know how it ends. But my brain chose to suffer from LSA (Lovable Situation Amnesia), so I remained reeled in until getting tossed into the credits.