Its not very often a film bores me, but this week’s Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club showing of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011) did just that, underlined by the fact that the most exciting part of movie was intended to be when a fish changed direction! Hosted by Lindsay Taylor, who did well to comply with the ten-minute maximum introduction rule, the film tells the rather fanciful story of Sheikh Muhammed’s dream to bring salmon fishing to the desert. Our tremendously wealthy Sheikh spares no expense in employing a consultant, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot who in turn involves a rather sceptical fisheries expert Dr Fred Jones, to turn the dream into a reality. The British Prime Ministers office via his overzealous press secretary Patricia Maxwell, latches on to it as a ‘good will story from the Middle East’
The screenplay is by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty 1997, Among Giants 1998, Slumdog Millionaire 2008, 127 Hours 2010) based on a novel of the same name by Paul Torday. Directed by the Lasse Hallstrom a Swedish born director best known for 27 Abba video’s between 1974 and 1982 and feature films which included Abba The Movie (1977) What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) Cider House Rules (1999) which won Michael Caine an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Chocolat (2000) and The Shipping News (2001). The award-winning actor Ewan McGregor plays the rather straight-laced Dr Jones. Emily Blunt, whose best film is Pawel Pawlikowsky’s My Summer of Love (2004) with Paddy Considine and Natalie Press for which both female leads shared an Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer, played the Sloane Ranger Chetwode-Talbot. Upstaging the pair of them is Kristin Scott Thomas, generally seen in good quality foreign language films, as the fiery-mouthed press secretary.
This British romantic comedy drama is middlebrow syrupy shallow nonsense, which misses a great chance to highlight environmental issues that plaque such countries as the Yemen. It’s what I would describe as a very ‘safe’ nondescript movie. Its not dramatic and its certainly not funny, one descent joke does not make a comedy, in fact it’s a twee love story at best. Part of the discussion following the film was that every one who had read the book admitted that Torday’s novel was much better than the film and that interested parties where better off reading the book.
This movie is a prime example of commercial cinema with its mendacious ideology and its clichéd romantic theme hiding under the pretence that it is an environmentally caring film. Do we now judge the worth of a film by how many bums we can get on seats and the lie that any film that is popular must be good: I certainly hope not and I pray that the RBC Film Club will be the vanguard in the battle to keep good imaginative, intelligent, challenging and creative cinema in the forefront of its Monday night schedule’s next season without the commercial restraints applied to the remainder of its programme.