There’s a high level of machine-tooled quirkiness in this quirky-feelgood British comedy, written by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallström and based on the 2006 bestseller by Paul Torday. And yet it feels as if you’ve seen it many times before. Bill Nighy isn’t in it, for example, and yet afterwards I had an intense memory of Bill Nighy being in it, the way amputees can feel their toes itching.
Ewan McGregor is Dr Fred Jones, the uptight fisheries scientist who finds himself dragged into a wild scheme to introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen, dreamed up by a fishing-crazed sheikh (Amr Waked). Grumpy Dr Jones is pretty testy at first with the sheikh’s beautiful English aide, Harriet (Emily Blunt). But as the desert is irrigated, so romance blooms, and the salmon of love leaps in the river of emotion.
The weakest part of this film is the ferocious government PR chief, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, with much lip-pursing and eye-rolling, but nothing funny or believable in the script for her to say. For an audience used to The Thick of It, this spin-doctor really does sound feeble. The comedy’s farmed, not wild.