The chemistry between the straight-laced Fred and shimmering Harriet is palpable early on in Salmon Fishing, a reminder of how enjoyable romantic comedies can be when well played. Best of all is Thomas, whose political dynamo with a quick temper gives the film the comic force it needs to propel its otherwise gentle narrative.

That said, the strengths of the film taper out as it shifts toward a bland message about “faith” and a few Zen-like scenes of fly fishing (done much better in Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It—a film that includes a respectable portrait of a Protestant minister).

The religion aspect of Salmon Fishing doesn’t go much deeper than a few discussions about faith (with no object attached to said faith) and the idea that the salmon project has united Muslims, Christians and, as the sheik says, “the odd heathen.” Fred and Harriet, who profess that they know no one who attends church, don’t look to a higher power for answers to their problems. Instead, they find strength in each other—not unexpected in a film with familiar stars, but disappointing considering that the film approaches religious ideas only to give them short shrift. Also disappointing is the film’s clunky attempt to add terrorism to its story mix—an awkward tonal shift in what otherwise is a reflective, and romantic narrative, if not a particularly deep one.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has its pleasures, mainly in the performances of its three lead actors. Those pleasures diminish as the film moves toward its conclusion, leaving a slight sense of disappointment to a film that, for a time, reminds one of what good romantic comedies can do. Better that the film had stuck to the romance and relegated its all-things-to-all-people ideas about religion to a much smaller role.


  • Language/Profanity: “My God”; “good God”; “Jesus”; the “f” word; “bas-ard”; “b-tches”; “up his a-s”; “bloody hell”; a typed communications shows asterisks where letters would be spelling out curse words; a character refers to “the eff-ing Yemen”; “shove it up your unfeeling a-s.
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Some drinking when a toast is offered; Fred tells Harriet he drinks only on weekends, after 7 p.m.; drinking with lunch; Patricia smokes a cigarette; Patricia pulls a bottle of wine out of the refrigerator and drinks some of it.
  • Sex/Nudity: Passionate kissing; Fred and his wife are shown from the shoulders up as they finish having sex, and his wife says, “That should do you for a while”; Patricia, hearing of a potential political scandal, says of the woman involved, “At least she’s legal”; Harriet decides to sleep with a man she’s just met and is shown waking up next to him (we see his bare chest but nothing else); Harriet is shown crawling into bed with him in a subsequent scene; Fred shown bare-chested.
  • Violence/Crime: Fred runs into a glass door; attempted shooting and an act of sabotage.
  • Marriage/Religion: Fred tells his wife, “We could have a baby,” but she’s not interested and leaves for a six-week work assignment; the sheik says, “This is a sign” about his plan to bring salmon fishing to Yemen; a comment that fishing and religion are “the same thing”; the sheik says, “I have too many wives to not know when a woman’s unhappy”; Fred says, “The sheik’s English has a tendency toward the mystical”; Fred tells Harriet, “I don’t think I know anyone who goes to church anymore.” She replies, “Neither do I.” Fred says, “On Sunday, we go to Target”; a character says, “I don’t care if God’s taken up fly fishing”; the sheik says, “We must have faith”; Rows of men shown praying on knees in Yemen; Fred’s wife begs him not to leave her, but he says it’s for the best; Fred becomes emotionally involved with Harriet while he is still married; the sheik looks over the dam and wonders if his efforts have glorified man rather than God, and is therefore an act of hubris; sheik declares a “miracle” has occurred; the sheik tells those gathered at the opening of the dam that “Muslims, Christians and the odd heathen . . . are gathered here for an act of faith”; sheik carries with him what appear to be prayer beads.

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