I like Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. I know the former hasn’t been in many decent films since the crappy Star Wars prequels pretty much derailed his entire career, whilst the latter has made some really very poor decisions when it comes to movies ever since her big break in “The Devil Wears Prada”, but I find them both very likeable. Which is good since this film basically rests on how likeable you find them both.
The plot goes that some Sheik wants to be able to fish in Yemen (which is referred to by all characters throughout the film as “the Yemen” despite it being a country not a river or something, which I found very odd) and so his aide Harriet (Emily Blunt) ropes in a bored civil servant, Dr Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) to help relocate 10,000 Scottish salmon to the middle east.
If this sounds a lot like the synopsis to quite a few quirky British comedies, you’d be absolutely right. It feels a lot like one of those films like Calender Girls or the recent Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but with more fish. Although, frankly it doesn’t even feel like that much of a comedy, since there aren’t a huge amount of jokes.
Obviously, there’s the inevitable romantic sub-plot between Harriet and Fred, and what’s nice is that none of it is as clear cut as in most romcoms. Both characters have partners, but whereas normally in these things both would be dreadfully unhappy with complete dickholes, Fred just seems stuck in a rut with a woman he loves, but is clearly wrong for him, whilst Harriet actually seems really happy with her incredibly sweet soldier boyfriend, she’d just prefer to be with Fred. It’s nice that for once a romance in a film isn’t all fairytale-ish and simple.
Not that the rest of the film gets particularly deep. All of the Yemeni are presented as either wise, open-minded philosophers, like the Sheik himself, or just as terrorists. Nice. The director takes great joy in presenting us with far too many visual metaphors for “swimming against the tide”, and the startling visual simplicity of Fred’s office job being entirely grey and cramped just seems like a far far too easy choice.
Both the leads are very likeable and make both the characters seem completely believable even when they’re making choices that… aren’t, frankly. Kristin Scott Thomas also stars as the PR officer to the Prime Minister, obviously having the time of her life chewing the scenery, f-ing and blinding, and basically auditioning for a new series of The Thick of It. The eunuch from Game of Thrones turns up as Fred’s boss too, so that’s nice.
It’s a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, but if you don’t like McGregor or Blunt, it’s probs not worth your money. It won’t change your life, it won’t be anyone’s Film of the Year, and frankly you’ll be struggling to remember most of it a few hours later, but pleasant is definitely the word for it. How very British.