Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, dir. Lasse Hallström, scr. Simon Beaufoy based on the book by Paul Torday, st. Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen perfectly fits the mould of the type of movie David Cameron thinks the British film industry should be concentrating on - accessible with a broad demographic in mind, driven by an appealing script (courtesy of Slumdog and Full Monty scribe Beaufoy), and judging by initial US box office figures, commercially successful. Yet there is something faintly subversive about the film. It's subtle, but it's there. Sheikh Muhammed (Waked) views salmon fishing as a soul-cleansing and faith-restoring pursuit, a redemptive ritual rather than a sport. His dreams of introducing it to the arid land of Yemen instead of "turning it into an 18-hole golf resort" as one character puts it, seem to echo what novelist Philip Pullman and Watchmen creator Alan Moore said at last month's Oxford Literary Festival - that monetising Art is to misunderstand its reason. It exists to inspire, to entertain, to educate. Similarly treated, though somewhat less understated, is the film's illustration of the Government itself - here depicted as bumbling and buffonish. Blunt's limitless grace and charm and McGregor's endearing portrayal of the spiritual-journeying Alfred Jones, the expert in all things fish, elevate this film a shade higher than its self-proclaimed "feel-good" limited aspirations would have you believe. For a film that's all about literal and allegorical swimming against the tide, it's remarkably pedestrianly broad-stroked, but fleetingly, darting here and there, are flashes of real heart.