The Velvet Café

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Salmon fishing tasting like chicken

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I wish Salmon Fishing in Yemen stood out as much as the title. As much as I want to see Swedish hockey players be successful in NHL, I want Lasse Hallström be equally successful with the critics as at the box office.

But putting the patriotism aside, I have to admit that the film reminds me of chicken. And I’m not talking about a delicious, spicy Indian dish here; I’m talking about a completely neutral chicken breast, useful for anything from a salad to a pie. Women probably likes it a little bit more, but everyone think it’s okish, but nothing more. It doesn’t challenge, it doesn’t annoy, it doesn’t stick in your memory. Ideally you consume it on a flight, because that’s what it was made for.

Lack of chemistry
Basically there are two main storylines in this film. One is about the fishing expert (Ewan McGregor) who one day is put at the unlikely task to assist a wealthy man in his mission to bring fly-fishing to Yemen. It’s about “making the impossible possible”, thanks to effort and a never-failing belief. This is a story I never grow tired of hearing. You can as well move fish and water to the desert as you pull a ship over the mountain. It’s the fighting spirit that is interesting, not the task at hands.

However I find it harder to engage in the second plot, which is the same fishing expert falling in love with a young woman (Emily Blunt) who also works on the salmon project.

Yes, I can see that girl is younger as well as hotter than his wife, but what else is there to it? He’s not the type who throws away a life-long marriage just like that. I didn’t sense the chemistry between them. If anything I wanted them to get back to their respective partners, which I think was against the idea of the film, judging from the music. I felt nothing, or even vaguely annoyed, when they kissed. And that’s a bit of a problem.

You’re supposed to approve of the lovers falling in love in a romantic film and you expect to feel good when you watch a feel-good movie. If you don’t do that, something isn’t working as intended.

Returning to Sweden
A final note on Lasse Hallström: it’s been over 25 years since he got a ticket to Hollywood thanks to My Life as a Dog. The jump over the ocean had the effect that his movies became more polished, with higher budgets and access to established actors. But it also meant that something of his personal touch got lost. The machinery ate it.

Lasse Hallström’s next movie will be Swedish and I can’t help wondering what difference it will make, if any. Is there more to it than just the switch of language? Perhaps some of the polish and chicken style will fall off when he hits Swedish ground? I hope so.

Salmon Fishing in Yemen (Lasse Hallström, UK, 2011) My rating: 3/5

Written by Jessica

September 11, 2012 at 1:00 am