Laurie Sparham
Owen Gleiberman
April 03, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Current Status
In Season
107 minutes
Wide Release Date
Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor
Lasse Hallstrom
CBS Films
Comedy, Romance

We gave it a B

In romantic movies, the obstacles to love have only gotten bigger, louder, and more obvious. But Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, adapted from Paul Torday’s 2007 novel by screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and director Lasse Hallström (Chocolat), takes us back to the sort of achingly civilized love story in which the only thing that really stands in the way of two people falling for each other is their own decorum. Ewan McGregor, at his most sweetly recessive, is a British fisheries expert, and Emily Blunt, dialing down her sauciness to a pleasing low hum, plays the PR representative of a Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked) who’s in possession of a cockeyed dream: He wants to bring salmon fishing to the desert. (For him, it will symbolize the harmonization of East and West.)

McGregor and Blunt become partners on the project, even though he, for one, doesn’t believe that it can work. The two each start off involved with other people (he’s unhappily married, she’s dating a handsome soldier who gets shipped off to Afghanistan), but they spend the movie flirting, withdrawing, and dithering about whether they’re friends or something more. As they do, the capricious challenge before them becomes, you know, a metaphor. You can have a reasonably nice time at Salmon Fishing in the Yemen if you accept that it’s the tidiest movie imaginable to ever say that falling in love is like swimming upstream. B

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