It’s 30 degrees outside. I’m snuggled beneath my comforters watching Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and the film has just taken a very unexpected turn, a one-handed snake roll. I won’t spoil it; I can say this with near certainty because most of you will never see it. I, for one, never had my heart set on seeing it, despite the fact that it’s billed as a romantic comedy. The synopsis sounds as exciting as a flounder dinner: A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible. And then there’s the title. HORRENDOUS. Though, I’m presently too creatively stunted to offer up alternatives.
ON KICKING A MAN OUT OF BED FOR EATING FISH + CHIPS
What did surprise me about the film wasn’t that I enjoyed it—I did—but that it was funny. Not a comedy outright—it’s a far outcry from Pitch Perfect, quotable in so many ways—but there were soft touches of humor, a light whipped up humor, particularly from the “angry funny” press secretary, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, whom I adore almost as much as Hugh Grant (it’s a tie). Though, I will allow that ever since Big Fish (or as Frank ChurchHill in Emma, or since any of his musical roles from Down With Love to Moulin Rouge!, even in Beginners—which I liked, but would’ve liked more had he not been in it) I must say that I don’t enjoy watching Ewan McGregor. There’s nothing specific about him; I can’t point to the mole on his cheek or a softness in his voice or stance—or perhaps it’s a lot of specifics that amount to dislike. If he’s the main character in a movie, I’d sooner choose another. But, given that I find Emily Blunt precious, I endured.
STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is worth seeing for its structure (I won’t break it down here because then really no one will see it). The plot points are specific and most are unexpected. It’s worth a watch, if for no other reason than, to study the bones of storytelling. Interestingly, the screenplay was an adaptation of an unusual novel by Paul Torday, one written solely in a series of emails, text messages, interviews, and testimony extracts. I like this tidbit I read on Wikipedia from the screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, “That’s the difference when reading the book. You can perceive specific conflicts, but when it’s onscreen you have to create something different, something the audience can see and feel and root for.” I could spend a lifetime trying to do that, to let go of what’s written, allowing something new to rise up and stand on its own.