Contrary to what I actually thought, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is not a documentary about Middle East fishing. Nor is it the latest film from Field and Stream or Outdoorsman magazines.


The truth of the matter is this is a film whose title may well keep people away or draw the wrong audience. I can easily imagine an auditorium full of guys in waders and sport vests, waiting to see a babe Winkleman type flick about fly fishing in the desert.


Instead, most will find this quirky flick, based on the novel by Paul Torday, a chick flick! [gasp]

Amr Waked plays Sheik Muhammed, an extremely wealthy prince in Yemen who has one dream... to recreate the same salmon fly-fishing thrills in the desert that he experienced while he was abroad.


Given the development in Dubai, UAE my guess is that this isn't that far fetched. If you throw enough money at it, it can be done. But the question of the film is, If you build it will they come... back? They, being salmon. Remember salmon have this habit of retuning to the place where they were spawned to spawn themselves.


Sheik Muhammed enlists the expertise of salmon expert Dr Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) who is Britain's foremost authority on the habits of salmon, but more importantly he is a veteran salmon fly-fisherman with several fly designs under his belt. I guess those two occupations go hand-in-hand in a weird sense. [Note: I remember being on a press tour at an aquarium where, for lunch, we ate fish. better still, we dined in front of the fish swimming around in the displays.]


Dr. Jones mission is to get hold of ten thousand live salmon, have them shipped to Yemen, and plopped into the reservoir the Sheikh is creating by damming a small river.

As it stands the film would be about as interesting as watching a river getting dammed and stocked with fish. So, enter Harriet (Emily Blunt), she is the tool by which the Sheik will enlist Dr Jones who, initially scoffs at the idea.


He continues to scoff, even throwing out an exorbitant estimate as to how much the project would cost - just to try to get around it. But it's no use and he is compelled to work with the Sheik. Even more so when his job faces a budget cut and he is... cut. Of course, this doesn't please his problematic wife Mary (Rachael Stirling). But she turns into a footnote very quickly.


So now we get the budding romance between Harriet and Dr Jones who are... in every way perfect for each other even though she has a beau (Tom Mison) who is missing in Afghanistan.


Yes, this is a romance story set in the middle of a desert. There is just enough turmoil going on to keep it amusing - like the Yemen civilians disliking the entire concept of wasting so much money when so many Yemenis are starving.


Director Lasse Hallstrom whom we remember from "The Cider House Rules", "Chocolat" and more recently "Dear John" does what he does best - stage a romance in less than optimum conditions. And to that end he does a fine job. There is great chemistry between McGregor and Blunt - a believable connection despite the improbability of the set up.


"Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" is a better than average romance that will consequently have a difficult time finding an audience. Don't be surprised to see some very disappointed fishermen in the theater.   -- GEOFF BURTON