A wealthy Yemeni sheikh, Muhammad (Amr Waked), wants to introduce salmon fishing to his dry homeland. To that end, he entrusts the project to an efficient assistant, Harriet (Emily Blunt), who recurs to a rigid, boring scientist named Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) to design a plan for bringing salmon to the country and create the conditions for it to survive.
Despite the unlikelihood of the project, the charm of Harriet, the stubbornness (and money) of Muhammad and the involvement of the British government get the plan going.
Apparently, the novel by Paul Torday in which the movie is based is a political satire, but the adaptation by Swede Lasse Hallström (‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’, ‘Chocolat’) is a feel-good romantic film. There are some comical elements in the depiction of Dr Jones’ dull life, and specially in the character of the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), who provides the best moments of the film, but the rest is a mostly bland, quite predictable story of self-discovery and impossible dreams.
Hallström’s direction ensures that almost nothing is out of place (almost: there are at least a couple of over-the-top scenes), and the casting is perfect: Ewan McGregor is a safe bet, no matter if he is a dull scientist or a ghost writer, while Emily Blunt is certainly lovable. Amr Waked is convincing enough as the sheikh and Scott Thomas is superb as the press officer. But such an improbable story, which borders social, political and ecological issues, would have needed to take itself less seriously, as it does in the beginning and in some moments. Without irony and satire, the film is dull, forgettable entertainment.
Concerned about the ecological risk of introducing tons of salmon in a foreign habitat, or water in Yemen being incredibly scarce? Then you’re watching the wrong movie.
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