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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen


Stars: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt. Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas, Rachael Stirling, Tom Mison, Clive Wood, Tom Beard, Conleth Hill

Director: Lasse Hallström

This sounds almost as potty a concept for a film as it does to the characters in the story but, thanks to Simon Beaufoy's frequently funny script, the result, if a trifle over-extended in the telling, charms, amuses and entertains in equal proportions.

Scott Thomas, stealing all her scenes, especially the earlier ones, enjoys herself immensely as the British prime minister's cynical PR/spin doctor, who, searching for a project that will take the nation's attention away from Afghanistan and other far east hotspots - 'We'll have Vera Lynn strapping on her suicide belt in sympathy next' she grumbles - settles on the scheme of a fishing-mad Yemeni sheikh (Waked) to construct rivers there to be fished for salmon.

With his boss under pressure from the government, staid fish scientist Fred Jones (McGregor) finds himself dragooned into the project (which he describes as 'doolally') under threat of the sack if he refuses. He's even rude to the sheikh's representative Harriet (Blunt), who surprises him by acquiescing to his deliberately inflated demands for money and manpower.

They both have problems at home, she worried about her boyfriend (Mison) serving abroad, and he trapped in a stagnant marriage with a wife (Stirling) who tells him after sex: 'That should do you for a while'.

But, when the odd couple arrives in the Yemen, both are soon caught up in the madcap 'folly', despite rebel factions planning to cut the sheikh's life very short.

As the buttoned-down introvert who has a drier sense of humour than he imagines, this could be McGregor's best performance since Trainspotting. And Morocco, standing in for the Yemen, is a bit of a star in itself.

David Quinlan

UK 2011. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
104 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 14 Apr 2012