Cut Salmon Fishing in the Yemen in two, and written straight through it would be the words “A BBC Film”. This isn’t a criticism, but rather an indication of the sort of gentle, moderately sized and well intended film that it is. It’s never going to set the box office alight, nor win awards – indeed its likely fate is to end up being shown on a Sunday afternoon as a reminder about what the BBC does best.
It’s handsomely shot, with a pleasing old-fashioned film stock quality to it (although I suspect that it was shot digitally to reduce costs) and the sort of cast that has a no thrills approach to this sort of thing. Even Emily Blunt manages to be less of a hindrance than normal (I usually have mixed reservations about her as I’ve yet to see a film she seemed comfortable in), although Ewan McGregor feels a little too old for the role as played (although younger than the protagonist in the book). Kristin Scott-Thomas feels a little out of place, as if she belongs in another film altogether, but still manages to generate laughs as the spin doctor using the Malcolm Tucker playbook.
The only problem with it besides a lack of greater ambition is that it has an unevenness of tone quite unlike any other film I can recall in recent memory. One moment it’s trying to be quite profound in the manner in which it deals with the subject of loss or small scale politics in the region, the next it’s slipped into broad farce (often accompanied by the infrequent snatches of swearing that were presumably injected in order that it didn’t get a more lucrative 12 certificate) at odds with the rest of the film. The film can never quite settle on whether it wants to be a gentle comedy romance or something else, and the occasional slips into pathos or politics feel at odds with the rest of it.
It’s all a pleasant enough diversion, hardly groundbreaking in its approach to cinema, but not inoffensive to the point of bland. It would be nice if occasionally amongst all of its charm there was a slight edge, a nod towards the difficulties of the country (it is heavily romanticised in its political views). However, it’s a fine advert for the scenery of Scotland and the fishing industry in general, even if there is no reason not to wait for the DVD.