Film Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Although it can be cloying in its sentiment, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a very watchable film.

Dr Alfred Jones is a fisheries expert working for the British Government. He is approached by consultant Harriet, on behalf of her wealthy  client, to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen. Alfred is initially reluctant, thinking the whole scheme is absurd. As he becomes more involved, he has a change of heart…

Written by notable screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, based on Paul Torday’s novel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen works well as a drama. The central narrative of the burgeoning friendship between Alfred and Harriet is well written and convincing. Some of the subplots, however, could have been better executed. The troubles that Sheikh  Muhammed has, for example, are underdeveloped and seem to appear only to give this character a more integral role. The side strands are simply less polished than the central narrative.

The two main characters in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen are sufficiently absorbing to carry the film. The friendship develops at an appropriate pace; the interactions seem natural. Sheikh Muhammed is a more ambiguous character. Functioning mostly as a facilitator, he appears almost selfless in his intentions. This makes him less convincing, although rather interesting as the wise sage archetype.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen features some amusing moments, but overall the emphasis is on drama rather than comedy. The cinematography works well to capitalise on some beautiful landscapes. Production values are good, apart from some inauthentic-looking CGI effects.

Ewan McGregor is strong as Alfred. It is refreshing to hear the actor playing a Scotsman; a rarity among his more recent roles. Emily Blunt delivers a good performance also. Blunt is in danger of being typecast as the upper-class English lady, however. Amr Waked is fine as Sheikh Muhammed, while Kristin Scott Thomas provides good comic support.

Despite some flaws, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a well produced drama. Audiences are unlikely to be too disappointed by what it offers.

Report: London Film Festival Press Conferences – Week 3

127 Hours

The press conference for 127 Hours, the Closing Night Gala at the London Film Festival, was attended by director Danny Boyle, star James Franco, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Coulson. Danny Boyle spoke about Aron Ralston’s amazing story, commenting: “He grows really in the canyon, it’s a journey… it felt really clear when reading the book, and especially when we talked to Aron a lot, that he grew in there, in those circumstances, it becomes a kind of journey that he’s on”.

James Franco discussed watching the tapes that Aron made whilst stuck in the canyon. He remarked; “As an actor, those were incredibly valuable because it wasn’t even necessarily what he was saying on those messages, it was the pure behaviour. We were sitting there watching a guy who had excepted his own death, and he didn’t know there was a happy ending at the end of the story. So Aron, now when he tells those stories he’s looking back on it, but in that moment he was in the middle of the situation”.

Simon Beaufoy elaborated on writing the screenplay and the input given by Aron. Simon stated; “We were always walking the tightrope between the facts and the needs of drama. And I think we got them right, because Aron is very, very supportive of the film. That’s always the big challenge, when you’ve got the real guy sitting right next to you”.

Read the I Heart The Talkies review of 127 Hours

Film Review: 127 Hours

Danny Boyle has never shied away from the visceral. 127 Hours is no different, blending the buoyancy of Slumdog Millionaire with a graphicness that will be difficult to watch for some audience members. Nevertheless, 127 Hours is highly recommended.

Aron Ralston is an avid mountain climber, who is accomplished enough to partake in the sport by himself. Spending a weekend canyoneering in Utah alone, disaster strikes when he becomes trapped by a boulder…

Based on the true story, it seems surprising that Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy would be able sustain a compelling film from a man being trapped alone for such a length of time. They do, however, and with some aplomb. 127 Hours is a fantastically engrossing film that really captures the imagination.

Anyone who has heard of Aron Ralston, or is even slightly aware of what the film is about, will have an idea of the outcome. Thus, there is a palpable tension every time Aron handles the multi-tool; waiting for the inevitable. The film is about so much more than this, nevertheless. 127 Hours is a tremendous survival story that rightly depicts Ralston as a remarkable human being to have endured such ordeal. The fact that he focuses on his family to help keep his sanity throughout his entrapment shows a very human side to a person who at times seems superhuman in physical and mental strength.

Even in the most gruesome horror film screening, you are unlikely to find an audience that will squirm as much. This is partly because what is depicted actually happened in real life, and partly due to the intensely visceral nature of the scene where Aron finally frees himself.

127 Hours‘ imagery is bright, mixing the natural landscape with a variety of external (and internal) illustrations. The cornucopia of colours of the crowd scenes at the ball game, for example, contrasts with the scenes of Aron in the canyon, and the extreme close-ups of the water in his bottle. Colours are heightened; the blue of the swimming pool and the orange of the Utah landscape appear unreal. Music works to great effect in 127 Hours, propelling the film forward and cementing the atmosphere.

Danny Boyle’s direction is on point; effectively conveying the trauma of the situation, but also injecting 127 Hours with moments of humour. Editing is excellent too, from the quick cutting of the goriest sequence to repetitive shots of Aron angling the rope, which deftly expresses the frustration of the situation.

Given the nature of the narrative, James Franco really has to carry the film. He does this well, demanding an emotional response from viewers. Franco certainly deserves recognition for this performance.

Those that are squeamish should not be deterred from seeing 127 Hours; it is a fantastic adaptation of an amazing story.

127 Hours was screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.