Written by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallström, starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristen Scott Thomas and based on the 2006 bestseller by Paul Torday, Salmon Fishing In the Yemen, one of the big terrestrial premieres this Christmas (BBC2, Sunday evening) really should have been better.
There's nothing necessarily wrong with this Ealing-esque, quaint and quirky romcom but there's not an awful lot right with it either. The plot - an eccentric, Anglophile fishing-crazed sheikh (Amr Waked) plans to introduce salmon to the Yemen with the help of his beautiful and capable aide (Blunt) and an uptight, officious fisheries scientist (McGregor) who starts out against the plan but slowly succumbs to its charms and those of the divine Ms Blunt, thus learning how to truly live life to the full - may have been more engaging on the page than it is on the big screen as it's a fairly flat and uninvolving experience. Once cannot deny the beauty before our eyes; the locations shoots in the Scottish Highlands and the Middle East, the attractiveness of Blunt and McGregor and Hallström's ability with a shot, but this is sadly an unremarkable experience.
People may knock Richard Curtis, but if Salmon Fishing in the Yemen shows us anything it's that this kind of genre requires a far more assured and in tune touch than Hallström and The Full Monty/Slumdog Millionaire scribe Beaufoy can provide. A stronger focus on the eccentricity inherent in the tale would have benefited the film more than the clear attempts at heartwarming it ultimately goes for. There's an attempt at bite with Scott Thomas' Westminster spin doctor, but her character is tame compared to the giddy delights of The Thick of It and In The Loop.
Ultimately Salmon Fishing in the Yemen seems as pointless an exercise in film making as the scheme within the plot of the film itself.