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Toronto: Film Critic Betsy Sharkey on 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'

September 13, 2011 |  6:38 am

At every film festival, a movie comes along that just lifts your spirits, leaves you feeling good about life and even better about the movies. At Day 5 in this year's Toronto International Film Festival, for me it’s Lasse Hallstrom’s charmer, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.”

The film has a grand cast, with Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked at the center of this very clever tale of modern eco-issues intertwined with old-style political intrigues and New Age romance. But let's start with Simon Beaufoy’s script.

Beaufoy co-wrote (with director Danny Boyle) the film that occupied this slot for me last year, “127 Hours.” In case you've been under a rock, James Franco starred as a hiker trapped by one, then driven to extreme measure to survive, so you know Beaufoy’s got a real feel for stories that are a testament to the human spirit, which comes in handy here. He’s also the writer responsible for that classic bump-and-grind on the British class system, “The Full Monty,” so he’s good at exposing the truth of things when it comes to people and politics.

With “Salmon Fishing,” adapted from the novel by Paul Torday, he’s working with Hallstrom, who has a knack for romance and gives this new film a wonderful quirky side the way he did with “Chocolat” so winningly some years back.

Everything is set in motion by a flare-up in Afghanistan, British politicians' desire for a good news story they can use as distraction and a wealthy sheik’s love of salmon fishing, philosophy and his country (Waked is terrific). An improbable project involving fish and a desert is undertaken to fulfill one of his dreams and by the time the film is done with us, it’s hard not to feel there is hope for romance, the possibility of peace and even a little patience for politics.


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-- Betsy Sharkey in Toronto

Photo: Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, who star in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," on the red carpet in Toronto for the film's premiere here. Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images