Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a British romantic comedy drama movie. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) has Asperger’s and is a nerdy scientist who “talks to his fish, when things get tricky in his life”. Consultant Harriet Chetwood Talbot (Emily Blunt) represents a wealthy Yemeni Sheikh (Amr Waked) who has employed her help to fulfill his vision to introduce salmon fishing to the desert country of Yemen. I had a particular pull to see this movie with the wacky title, because prior to my birth, my parents had lived for many years in Yemen.
British Prime Minister’s hyper active, intense, tireless, and overzealous press secretary latched on to this vision of the Sheikh, to promote it as a “good will” story, and with clear and implied pressure, the job fell in the lap of Mr. Jones and Ms. Chetwood. Fred initially believed Sheikh’s vision to be absurd. But Sheikh is a man of deep faith and like his salmon, he gradually reels in Fred who comes to see the wisdom of the vision and begins to work earnestly with Harriett, to implement the project. The duo tackled the obstacles like finding the fish, navigating the bureaucracies, dealing with the political fallout, while the Sheikh managed the logistics with the huge $200 million plus budget. Estranged from his practical, career oriented wife who was focused on climbing the career ladder, he fell in love with Harriet, whose boyfriend was reported missing in action, in the war in Afghanistan. Towards the climactic end, just as Sheikh’s vision took shape and a beautiful oasis was created alive with water and fish, after Fred declared his love to Harriet, Robert returns alive. The climax intensifies further as the idyllic photo op of the Sheikh and the British PM fishing along with the rest of their teams, was brutally disrupted by fundamentalist elements
Spoiler Alert – Below
The fundamentalists kill the Sheikh’s security guards and open all the gates of the dam. The water rushes out, causing several casualties, emptying the little oasis dry of water and fish. Harriet reluctantly decides to leave with her fiancé and Fred decides to go back to England. Just then a fish jumps in a little puddle, trying to go upstream and the Sheikh yells to Fred that all’s not over, pointing to the fish. In a final climax, Harriet decides to stay with Fred and they both decide to remain with the Sheikh to try again to fulfill the sheikh’s vision. They resolve to enroll the support of the local community from the start, and make this a community vision that would bring in a source of food, provide pleasure, and create an oasis in the desert.