This is a British romantic comedy-drama movie based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Paul Torday.
A leading scientist, Dr Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is approached by Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), who wants his advice on how to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen. She represents a wealthy Sheikh (Amr Waked), who loves Scotland, but who also wants to bring his people water, and fish for salmon in his desert.
Dr Jones works for the British Government, and he suffers from Aspergers. Not surprisingly, he says that salmon will perish in the desert, and he prepares an exaggerated plan that, to his surprise, is accepted. The secretary of the Prime Minister’s Press Office, Bridget Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) decides to support the project.
It offers a good-will story that distracts conveniently from Britain’s military failures, and is symbolic to her of “Anglo-Yemeni Co-operation”. The project is insane, but with the British Prime Minister’s approval she puts political pressure on those around her to fly salmon in from England.
The Sheikh gives Jones 50 million pounds to finance the project. Jones wants to say “no” , because of the project’s absurdity, but his inclination is compromised by the fact that the British Government has built up what is happening to create a flagship project for British Science. With his job at risk, and his marriage disintegrating, Jones decides reluctantly to try to make the project work.
In Yemen, Fred falls in love with Harriet, and their growing attraction to each other is portrayed movingly. The film could have been burdened with clichés, but it avoids them in the scenario that it creates.
Torday’s novel had strong elements of political satire, and offered solid food for thought on Britain’s foreign policies. The film doesn’t do this. It throws its main focus on romance and the role of faith in inspiring the achievement of what seems humanly impossible. It also passes more than a critical glance at environmental projects forced on the naïve, and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The film is a gentle, sweet movie that achieves its comedy and drama in an understated way, and it creates some delightful, comic moments - Peter Sheehan, Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Amr Waked. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Rated M (Mature themes and infrequent coarse language). 107 min.