Here's the thing. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not a good movie. But the weird thing about it is that it is possible to watch the entire thing and then go out into the world thinking that it was good. Recommending it to your friends and family even. It's very nice looking. The actors are all very charming and nice looking and good at their jobs. The words they are saying, on the whole, seem like words that human beings might say. It's not even the ludicrous plot that's causing problems (well, not the biggest problems). But there is something at the core of this movie that is just a couple of degrees off and if you think about it for more than a few seconds the entire thing falls apart. This recap is basically an attempt to explain to myself just what exactly is wrong with this movie because I can't quite put my finger on it after a casual viewing. Come on this journey with me. It has salmon.
The opening credits play over arty shots of salmon swimming in the water, in case you were holding out hope that this movie wasn't actually about salmon. It's totes about salmon guys. So much salmon.
We eventually pull out to a shot of a Sheikh fly fishing, as Emily Blunt voiceovers an email to Dr. Ewan McGregor: the World's #1 Salmon Expert. The gist of the letter is “Dear Dr. Ewan: My crazy moneybags client wants to pay all the money in the world to introduce salmon fishing to Yemen because he is straight up nuts. And the Foreign Office TOTES wants us to do this for good Middle East press because of like war or whatever. Will you help me check yes or no?” (P.S. Because I grew up in the ‘90s I cannot hear the word “Yemen” without thinking of Chandler Bing so I can’t promise he won’t pop up in this recap from time to time.)
Emily works as a something or other organizey money something at a something something investment consultancy firm. Or something. It's not really relevant. She sends her email and then rushes out of the office to meet up with none other than Tom Mison, newly of Sleepy Hollow fame. They have just started dating. He is in the army reserve or something. He is very pretty. She is very pretty. I'm rooting for these two kids.
She is nervous and they make cutesy awkward small talk before Ichabod Crane handsomely defuses the tension by saying “Last one to the restaurant pays!” and running off.
We switch over to Dr. Ewan's house where he is replying to Emily's email in about as condescending a manner as you can imagine. But you can't get too mad at him because he's actually allowed to use his Scottish accent in this movie and it is swoonworthy. But anyway, he basically says “Let me explain to you about salmon. They need to be in the exact opposite climate of Yemen in order to survive, therefore you and the government are both super dumb, please leave me alone.”
He sends the email and then talks to his wife about how she is flying off somewhere or other tomorrow for work and he's like “Will u read my academic paper about salmon on the plane and tell me what you think?” and she is like “LOL no” and he makes a frowny face.
Meanwhile, Emily is having a much better day as she has her new boyfriend Ichabod over at her place and they're about to get down to sexy business. First she feels the need to say that she doesn't normally do this kind of thing because she is SO SHY and he's like “Hey that's cool, whatever you want to do, I'm a Nice Guy” and then they Do It.
Next thing you know, Kristin Scott Thomas is being woken up by a phone call in the middle of the night. She is some super important Foreign Office person and whoever is on the phone tells her there's a “code red” which is the super secret government way of saying “Turn on your TV, somebody blew up a mosque in Afghanistan.” She goes into work the next day and tells everybody they need to find some good news coming out of the Middle East. Since they are top level government employees, they choose the most competent and intelligent method of doing so:
Somebody tips her off to the whole Crazy Moneybags Fishing Enthusiast Sheikh plan. She thinks it's dumb, obviously, but at that moment the Prime Minister calls asking for an update and so she's like “Um yeah, I totes have a good story and you are going to love it please don't fire me!” because the only other stories people found were apparently even stupider.
Dr. Ewan goes into work and don't even ask me what his actual job is because I have no idea, but his office looks like basically a glorified cubicle full of crap, and he starts his day by casting a fishing rod at a picture of his boss so it seems pretty fun.
While he's fucking around, his boss (who is overweight and eating a sandwich, because we're not supposed to like him; good job movie!) gets a call from Kristin Scott Thomas and he's so excited to get a call from such an important person that he almost falls out of his chair while picking up the phone (because he is a sniveling sycophant, as power-hungry as he is sandwich-hungry). She's like “What up, bro. We just heard tell of this Salmon Fishing in the Yemen thing and it sounds like a
great idea for a movie
cool idea to get good press, whaddaya think?” He's like “Uh... it's kind of
dumb but I guess we'll try?” and she is like “THERE IS NO FUCKING TRY JUST DO
IT YOU DUMMY!” Listen, don’t bother reading the past few sentences, this whole
scene is basically this:
He sends his secretary to fetch Dr. Ewan, but before she can state her business Dr. Ewan is like “First look at this horrifying supercloseup picture of a bug, I think it will go great with that report my terrible wife won't read on the plane.” She is like
Dr. Ewan rambles about how it's such an exciting picture that will titillate the “YouTube generation” but then remembers that he has a picture of a spider eating a fly that may be even better and then we have to look at that too and I'm like bring back the boring salmon please, this is gross. Dumb Boss comes in and is like “Yeah, I'm going to need you to meet with Emily about this stupid salmon thing” and Dr. Ewan is like “But it's so stupid and I'm really busy understanding how much young people love disgusting bug pictures” and Dumb Boss is like “I know it's stupid but the government lady yelled at me and I am your boss so you will do it and also I hate you.”
So Dr. Ewan goes to Emily's office to be condescending to her about salmon in person. She comes to the lobby to greet him and he assumes that she's a secretary because he is a dummy and this is the face he makes when he discovers that she's the crazy salmon lady:
They go to her office and she starts to explain how the Sheikh is her client and he has property in Scotland because he is super into fishing and Dr. Ewan rudely interrupts her by saying “Water! H2O!” and she understandably assumes that he is just asking for a glass of water in a very rude manner and goes to get some and he's like “NO YOU MORON WATER FOR THE FISH! You do know fish need water, right?” and she's like “Yeah...” and he's like “Let me patronizingly teach you about the difference between British water and Yemeni water by pointing at this map of the world you have hanging in your office for no discernible reason and talking to you like you are a kindergartner!”
I would probably slap his face, but she is a professional so she just calmly explains that it's not really that dry in Yemen because of monsoons and some secret water stores they discovered while drilling for oil and Dr. Ewan is like “Yeah but could it BE any hotter in Yemen?” and she's like “Not in the mountains; it's pretty similar to parts of California where they TOTALLY have salmon” and Dr. Ewan is like "Stop making me feel like a dummy, dummy!"
So despite Emily making some good points Dr. Ewan is still sticking to the “This is stupid” line and asks why the Sheikh doesn't spend his money on something more reasonable like a football club (soccer team, for us Yanks) and Emily says that the Sheikh is her favorite client and is a visionary. Yeah ok, whatever Emily. Dr. Ewan is like “Visionary schmisionary, I said I'd meet with you and now I have, have a nice life” and then he walks face first into a glass door and we all LOL at him together.
Dr. Ewan goes back to Dumb Boss and says “No way am I doing that stupid thing” and Dumb Boss is like “Actually you are going to do that stupid thing or else you are fired. Stop complaining, they're paying you double your salary” and Dr. Ewan is like “FINE! I will take a lot of money to work on a project related to the thing I love most in the world with a nice woman where I don't have to be around my boss who I clearly hate. GEEZ!”
Later that day he is playing cello at some kind of amateur mini-orchestra for grownups with his wife, who is playing trombone (these two characters are now officially three dimensional), and he asks if he should have just quit because of his dignity or something and she's like “No. We live in the real world where people need jobs because of money and don't quit because of stupid principles. Shut up and play your damn cello.”
On their way home he's still yammering on about it so you can't really blame his wife for tuning him out as he goes on and on about how maybe he should just quit and they can have a baby and he can be a house husband. He is so sad when he realizes that she ignored his wonderful speech in favor of looking at work stuff on her phone. Women, am I right? In case anybody watching the movie was still on the wife's side at this point (Ahem!) the next thing that happens is they have boring, mostly-clothed grownup sex and when they're finished she actually pats him on the head and says the words “That should do you for a while.” GET IT TOGETHER, SCREENWRITER!
Meanwhile, Emily and Ichabod are woken up by someone calling Ichabod to tell him that he's been called to active duty. OH NO, NOT ICHABOD! He tells Emily he's sorry he has to go and he knows they've only been together a few weeks and who knows how long he's going to be away but pretty please will she wait for him? She's like “TOTES! Have you looked in a mirror recently?”
So anyway, enough of that Downward Debbie stuff! Emily and Dr. Ewan are officially working together now and they’re meeting to start putting Salmon Quest in motion. But Dr. Ewan is still being a huge dick about it, which today manifests itself as him drawing pictures for Emily that demonstrate how idiotic he thinks the whole thing is as he once again explains what a logistical clusterjam it would be.
The thing about it though is that even though he's an asshole he's pretty much right when he responds to her point that they could keep the fish alive during the dry season using the dam that's already been built by saying it would be a waste of precious water resources all for the whims of one rich dude. But whatevs. If you look too closely at the plot of this movie you will be wasting precious brain resources so I recommend not bothering.
Anyway, she continues to ignore his sarcasm and just asks how much it's going to cost, and he says at least 50 million pounds. THERE ARE STARVING CHILDREN IN LITERALLY EVERY COUNTRY BTW. Sorry, don't know where that came from! Emily is like “HA! So you do think it’s possible! In your face, jag!”
He's outraged for like the 50th time that he's being asked to take this seriously, and it's like, we get it! He thinks it's dumb and beneath him! Can we please move on! Emily tells him that the Sheikh will be in town in a couple weeks and asks if there's anything he can work on in the meantime. He asks her to set up a meeting with the engineers of some fancy schmancy Chinese dam not because he actually needs to but because he wants to be a dick.
Dr. Ewan comes home with a spring in his step because of getting the last douchey word against Emily, but his buzz is immediately killed when he discovers his cold fish wife (see what I did there?) is packing to go to some work thing in Geneva for six weeks that apparently he knew about but didn't realize was happening now? Or something? I don't know, but he's pissed. She's like “Thanks for congratulating me on this great career opportunity!” and he just runs away to throw bread into the fish pond in the backyard and think about how shitty his life is. She joins him and they have a serious talk about how maybe it's good for them to have some time apart.
Meanwhile Emily is having real problems. She is at home listening to the news about the war and thinking about her hot boyfriend who could die at any moment.
Also having real problems is Kristin Scott Thomas who has just gotten word that some Minister of something was photographed doing something inappropriate with a young lady. Quite the scandal, really. She tries to put out the fire over the phone while getting her kids ready for school because she is a modern working woman and therefore responsible for everything all at once. She is very pleased to get a text saying that Salmon Quest is moving forward.
She goes to Dr. Ewan's office to talk to him it. She lets him know that the Sheikh has already transferred the 50 million pounds and asks if everything's good to go. He's like “Um actually no, because wheretf are we going to get 10,000 British salmon without royally pissing off the millions of British fishing enthusiasts?” and Kristin ignores the majority of his words and is like “HOLD UP! How many fishing weirdos did you say there were?” and now she of course has a plan to get all the voters to like the government by making it look like they all love fishing or something. I don't even know, it's not really relevant to the plot. Everything with Kristin is like a whole separate farcical movie about politics and has no point.
We’re treated to the first of several “hilarious” online conversations between Kristin and various high-level government employees and it’s like give me a break, we are supposed to believe that this is the profile pic Kristin chose for herself?
Anyway the upshot of this fascinating plot development is that Kristin puts Dr. Ewan's douchey boss in charge of procuring the necessary salmon which gives Dr. Ewan an excuse to lord it over him because he is a jerk.
So now Emily and Dr. Ewan take a trip to the Scottish castle that the Sheikh owns to talk to the Sheikh about his ridiculous and wasteful plan. Dr. Ewan is very pleased to see that his room comes complete with high-end fishing gear and takes advantage of it immediately by heading down to the picturesque fishing area of the estate. River? Stream? I don’t know. There’s water.
The Sheikh comes down to greet him along with Emily and his entourage and further endears himself to Dr. Ewan by saying that he uses the super special fly Dr. Ewan invented like ALL the time because it’s the best. Dr. Ewan is a fishing genius! And the Sheikh is a flattery genius!
The Sheikh takes Dr. Ewan to one of his favorite fishing spots so they can have a bro to bro chat. He’s like “So Dr. Ewan, I know you think I’m crazy, but listen to these salmon metaphors that explain that I am actually a visionary just like Emily said.” Basically he says a bunch of stuff that sounds super deep because he is a mysterious Middle Eastern man full of mystical wisdom, because it’s the 21st century and stereotypes no longer exist. Anyway, the gist of it is “Fishing makes the world a better place.” Immediately after his speech, he catches a fish which apparently is a sign that this is all a great idea.
Dinner at the Sheikh’s castle that night is apparently a black tie affair, and Dr. Ewan is SHOCKED by how beautiful Emily is in her gown. Because she was totally ugly before, of course. He asks if the gown is hers, which is a very normal question. She says yes, and he admits that his suit was given to him by the Sheikh along with all that nice fishing gear. He thinks it’s super creepy that the Sheikh knew what size to get him, and Emily admits that they asked her for his size, and she guessed. He tells her he has a 32 inch waist, not a 34 inch waist. Shut up, Ewan. This scene is so pointless and I can’t believe I bothered writing all those words about it.
Dinner conversation is very casual and normal “getting to know you” type stuff… JK! It turns almost immediately into the Sheikh asking if Dr. Ewan is religious and him saying he’s not, and the Sheikh being like “But you’re a fisherman and you stand out there for hours and hours waiting for a fish so like faith or something” and then the music gets really mystical again and I’m desperate for a break to be given, but it does not come. Instead of making the completely correct point that having faith that you will eventually catch a fish comes from experience of having actually caught a fish along with indisputable knowledge that fish exist in the first place from having seen them with your own eyes while faith in a deity has no proof at any point except ostensibly when you die and whatever is supposed to happen to you in your religion happens, Dr. Ewan is just like “Wow your mystical knowledge is so mystical, good point bro.” They toast “to faith and fish.” Dr. Ewan adds “and science” and they all LOL.
After dinner they all have a nightcap by the fire, and the Sheikh is like “Hey Ems, I can tell when a woman isn’t happy because bitches be trippin’ and I have a bunch of wives (ugh) and am therefore an expert on females so I know that you’re bummed about something, please tell me so I can mystically help you with my mysterious Middle Eastern wisdom.” Instead of being like “None of your fucking business, go fuck yourself you creep” she’s like “Oh well my hot boyfriend Ichabod just got sent to Afghanistan and could die at any moment LOL.”
Dr. Ewan is shocked to hear that anybody other than him has problems in their lives and tries to be mildly comforting about it, which is at least a step up from open hostility and condescension. The Sheikh changes the subject by telling Dr. Ewan that his wife must be pretty great to let him go traipsing all over the world on his Salmon Quest, and Ewan is like “Oh well that icy-hearted monster is working abroad at the moment anyway so whotf cares” and the Sheikh is like
Because having a wife on a business trip is pretty much exactly the same as having your boyfriend in a war zone. Yup. This guy is smart.
On this note, they head off to bed. Emily and Dr. Ewan stop at their respective bedroom doors so that she can ask him what he thinks of the Sheikh, and he’s like “Well he’s super mystical and I still think he’s cray but in order for the plot of this movie to advance I have to now decide that I don’t mind so much that this idea is the dumbest, so let’s do it!”
Back at the office, Dumb Boss is video-chatting with some salmon dude who suggests that angry British fisherman are more dangerous than Al Qaeda, so no way can they send a single fish to Yemen. Dumb Boss is so worried about disappointing Kristin :(
That same day, Emily comes bursting into Dr. Ewan’s office to tell him that OOPS! those Chinese engineers he requested a meeting with as a way of winning an argument back when they were frenemies are here, because she emailed them but her Mandarin is rusty or something and the dates got mixed up. Dr. Ewan is like “Crap.” They go have their meeting with the engineers, Emily serving as translator as Dr. Ewan just weaves a tapestry of verbal bullshit about their plans and apparently they manage to not look like total dummies and I guess these dudes are going to be their engineers if and when Salmon Quest comes to fruition. What can’t these two do when they put their heads together?
After the meeting, Dumb Boss comes to say hi and asks who “those chippie chappies” were. He is discouraged to hear that Salmon Quest is proceeding more quickly than anticipated, because he has no idea where the fuck he’s going to get the requisite salmon from. He also manages at the same time to loom into Emily’s personal space and try to hit on her while also talking shit about Dr. Ewan directly in front of his face. I don’t want to tell the filmmakers how to do their jobs but I’m not really sure yet whether we’re supposed to like this guy so they probably should have had him eating a sandwich while he talked. Anyway, Dr. Ewan is like “GTFO we’re going to lunch, you perv” and Emily is just like
At lunch, Emily starts popping bottles to celebrate her improbably flawless Mandarin. She wants Dr. Ewan to get crunk with her, but he says he only ever drinks after 7PM on weekends. Emily is like “Oh my god you are so boring that I’m going to initiate the same ‘Do you still think this project is stupid’ conversation we’ve had a zillion times already” and Dr. Ewan is like “Yup, still think it’s stupid, but I haven’t seen anything that says it’s 100% impossible, so theoretically it’s going well?” He then starts to pull out some Salmon Quest related files and she’s like “Really? You want to work at lunch?” Luckily this is interrupted by Emily getting a phone call. Unfortunately it is not Ichabod, as she first thinks, but somebody telling her that Ichabod is missing in action.
She ditches lunch to try to get some information about what’s happening with Ichabod. Unfortunately she thinks the best way of achieving this is to call some governmenty person and say basically “So I only knew Ichabod for like three weeks but we’re like boyfriend and girlfriend so can you tell me secret military details?” What a dummy. Anyhow, she apparently decides that her sadness means she is no longer required to go to work so Dr. Ewan has to resort to leaving a message on her answering machine, basically like “Hey, sorry your boyfriend might be dead, but Salmon Quest is going great and we have a deadline so get the f back to work already geez louise.”
She does not take kindly to this message and he at least seems somewhat ashamed of ending the message with “Please call me back at your earliest convenience.”
Later, Dr. Ewan is walking down the street and realizes that phone calls are too impersonal and he needs to go harass Emily face to face in her home, so he turns around and start walking the opposite direction through a crowd of people like the asshole that he is.
When he turns up at her door, Emily is really not pleased to see him and chews him out for bugging her about Salmon Quest, claiming that she can’t leave the house in case someone calls with news, because cell phones don’t exist, and she also suggests that him insisting on coming over in spite of her emotional distress indicates that he has Asperger’s which is just a lovely little treat to throw in there. Very sensitive. Anyhow, Dr. Ewan is like “Frowny face! I just came over to see if you were ok also I brought you a sandwich!” Now she feels like an asshole, so it’s like a meeting of equals. They hug, and agree to start calling each other by their first names instead of Dr. Jones and Miss Chetwode-Talbot, as they had been doing previously.
She apologizes for the Asperger’s comment and Dr. Ewan says that the great thing about people with Asperger’s is that it’s very hard to hurt their feelings, so it’s totes fine. WOW, MOVIE. GOOD JOB.
Dr. Ewan further proves that he is loosening up and becoming a nice guy by revealing that he’s brought a bottle of wine with him EVEN THOUGH IT ISN’T AFTER 7PM ON A WEEKEND. Character growth. They eat their sandwiches and drink their wine and talk about how Emily is pretty sure Ichabod must be dead. Dr. Ewan segues into being like “Hey let’s get your mind off this sad stuff by going to Yemen to work on Salmon Quest some more!” and she’s like “No I have to stay in case there’s news” but he tells her that the Sheikh has already agreed to fly her back on his private jet if anything happens. She seems shocked, but dude, that guy just dropped 50 million pounds on the stupidest idea of all time, he would probably not notice if you stole his jet let alone balk at lending it to you.
He softens her up by saying that he can’t do it without her, and she says “Whatever it’s just fishing. Who the hell cares?” Good thought to put out there halfway through the movie, screenwriter. But Dr. Ewan says “Strangely enough, I do.” He’s a true salmon believer now, and she’s so touched that she agrees to go.
So finally at the fifty-one minute mark of the movie we’ve made it to the country from the title. Emily and Dr. Ewan get off the plane and there’s desert everywhere so it looks super promising for Salmon Quest already. Emily asks Dr. Ewan if he ever thinks they’re part of a “lavish practical joke” and I kind of wonder if that was in the script or if that was just Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor chatting on set.
As they ride over to Salmon Quest HQ to meet the Sheikh, they pass such sights as goats running amok and a group of dudes praying outside a mosque and a grizzled older dude standing on the side of the road holding a gun and looking sketchy. HA HA this movie. Wow.
They finally make it to the area where Salmon Quest is supposed to happen and Dr. Ewan is like “Hey look at these rocks, perfect place for salmon to lay their eggs if only this weren’t a desert” and Emily is like “Cool story. Hey look, this beautiful woman in a fancy looking hijab just emerged literally out of nowhere with a water jug, let’s drink her water out of these clay mugs we were apparently carrying with us. Yemen, am I right?”
This totally natural event happens just so that Dr. Ewan can say “OMFG THE WATER FROM THIS MAGICAL LADY’S WELL IS COLD. SALMON QUEST IS GO!” To further drive home the point, they climb some hill and look down to Salmon Valley which is slightly less deserty than the other side, like there are even some greenish shrubs.
They catch up with the Sheikh who is getting bitched and finger-wagged at by one of his cronies. Emily and Dr. Ewan join him and he’s like “Can you believe that goon? He said that Salmon Quest blows because nobody in Yemen wants any part of those fishy Western ways and God is probably super pissed about it too. Anyway, let’s not spoil your vacation with this bullshit, look how pretty my valley is! It even has some water!” and then some guy starts filming them and the next sequence is shot as though it’s this guy’s home video? I don’t know why. It’s dumb. But it’s basically a montage of the Sheikh going over plans with Emily and Dr. Ewan and arguing with some Yemeni dudes.
Back in England Dumb Boss is still failing to procure the Salmon Quest salmon because he is terrible and has no redeeming qualities. He yells at some dude about it over Skype, possibly the same guy who compared angry fishermen to terrorists earlier, but who knows, all middle-aged white men look the same to me. Anyhow, Nondescript White Dude is very annoyed about being bossed around by Dumb Boss so as revenge he gets a story into some fly fishing trade magazines about how the evil government is trying to steal their salmon. They all have pretty great headlines but this one is my favorite:
This bummer moment ends and we go back to Yemen where Dr. Ewan is making a new fly. He sees Emily talking on the phone and looking perturbed. He asks her if there’s news from Afghanistan and she’s like “Nope, I was just leaving a voicemail on Ichabod’s phone because I am actually insane, no worries.” Dr. Ewan finds this endearing and says that when he’s having problems he talks to the fish in the tiny pond in his backyard, so he totally understands what she’s going through.
She says that she doesn’t picture him having a difficult life and he’s like “My wife is a cold shrew and we got married too young and therefore I have the worst life ever!!!!” She non sequiturs that she can’t even remember what Ichabod looks like anymore. REALLY?????? DO YOU NOT HAVE ANY PHOTOS OF HIM? THIS IS NOT LIKE AN ELIZABETHAN COSTUME DRAMA, DO YOU NOT HAVE A CELL PHONE AND/OR FACEBOOK? ANYWAY LOOK AT HIS FACE HOW COULD YOU FORGET IT HE IS SO HANDSOME:
She says that she’s stuck and can’t move on. Girl, take it easy. You knew this dude for three weeks get it together. Dr. Ewan says he’s stuck too. Their lives are basically the same. Sadsacks Anonymous over here, geez louise.
Meanwhile some dudes in a tent are having an angry conversation while villain music plays in the background. They look at a newspaper article with a picture of the Sheikh on it and show it to a young dude with a big gun who looks like he would be more at home in hipster coffee shop in Brooklyn than an assassination plotline in Yemen but what do I know.
So not only are some gun-toting tent-dwellers planning something probably not so nice, but some Scottish guy is on the news standing in front of a river talking about how rude it is to even suggest sending their fish to Yemen. WE GET IT. PEOPLE ARE NOT ON BOARD WITH SALMON QUEST.
Kristin is watching the news and talking to the Prime Minister, who suggests they just cancel Salmon Quest altogether. Kristin is like “HOGWASH! We’ll find the fish somewhere else” and then she opens her refrigerator and some fish falls out and she looks at it thoughtfully.
She goes to meet the team at the Scottish castle and the Sheikh walks her in past his household staff or bodyguards or something, listen, I don’t know who they are, but basically a bunch of Yemeni dudes wearing kilts and turbans, and Kristin basically says “Schwing” at them.
So anyway, she’s come to let them know that she has a brilliant new salmon-procurement scheme. Since all the actual river salmon are off-limits, they’ll just buy a bunch of salmon from the fish farms that supply grocery stores! Dr. Ewan is like “Wow you are an even dumber dummy than anybody involved in this dumb project! Those salmon won’t run if we put them in Yemen, all they know is fish farm life! Could you BE any more ignorant about the intricacies of salmon behavior?”
Kristin doesn’t see the problem, but the Sheikh is ultra-pissed because he has a vision and it doesn’t involve second-rate salmon who will just float away if they drop them in his desert river. Kristin is like “Too bad, so sad, the government is breaking up with you now, best of luck in your future endeavors.” Dr. Ewan resigns his job, which apparently is somehow contingent on the government liking him, so I have even less idea of what he was actually doing for a living before Salmon Quest than I did forty-five minutes ago. But whatevs. Dr. Ewan is now like the #1 fan of Salmon Quest and will dedicate his life to it, so screw you Kristin, you’re not my real mom and you never will be!
He and the Sheikh go fishing to blow off some steam, and the Sheikh says they have to have faith that they’ll find the fish elsewhere. But even Faithy McReligiousson doesn’t sound convinced by his own mystical proclamations this time. At this moment, one of the kilt-wearing bros that Kristin wanted to get on earlier sneaks up on them carrying a gun. It’s the hipster from the tent, oh no! Emily also happens to be walking by and sees the would-be assassin but she doesn’t see him in time to warn them.
Tent Hipster jumps out and yells something and there’s no subtitles so I’ll just assume he says “My name is Tent Hipster, you killed my no-Western-pastimes-allowed-valley, prepare to die” but before he can get a shot off, Dr. Ewan CASTS HIS FISHING POLE AT HIM AND HOOKS HIM IN THE NECK CAUSING HIM TO FALL OVER RENDERING HIM INCAPABLE OF KILLING THE SHEIKH AND ALSO I LOL FOR A SOLID 90 SECONDS.
After this heroic fishing moment, Dr. Ewan runs to the Sheikh to make sure he’s ok because the Sheikh is his #1 bro for life. The Sheikh is flustered but fine obviously considering the gun didn’t even go off. But he thanks Dr. Ewan for saving his life and then they get the adrenaline-giggles.
At this point in the movie I would 100% forgive it for everything if these two started making out, but sadly it’s not to be, and pretty soon Emily is fawning all over Dr. Ewan like “OMG, r u ok??? You’re so strong and brave!”
The Sheikh asks Emily and Dr. Ewan to continue working as though nothing has happened because Salmon Quest is too important to be derailed by something so silly as almost getting killed. He also promises to repay Dr. Ewan for saving his life.
That night, Emily is watching the news and there’s a report about the operation in which Ichabod became MIA. Dr. Ewan watches with her as it’s announced that everybody involved in the operation is officially deadsies. She goes to weep in her room, and Dr. Ewan follows her because he has no tact.
She says she’s sorry for being such a crybaby, but she’s sad because she never really got the chance to get to know Ichabod. Dr. Ewan hugs her and she weeps some more and apparently they fall asleep that way somehow? Or actually judging by the next shot, Dr. Ewan just spent the entire night lying in her bed and watching her sleep. Dude could you BE any more Edward Culleny right now?
He gets up and goes back to his own room, but not before gazing intensely at her from the doorway. It was at this point in my initial viewing of this movie that I realized that it was not a somewhat-groundbreaking depiction of a male and female developing a respectful working relationship and platonic friendship while dealing with their own complicated romantic relationships, but actually a fucked up boy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love story and I was SO PISSED. And still am, but I’m surprised I didn’t realize it sooner.
Anyway, Dr. Ewan goes home and his wife is there because she got a day off from living in Geneva and thought she would surprise him. But she’s the one who’s about to be surprised, because he tells her that he quit his job to commit to Salmon Quest full time. She’s like “Uhhhh, but what about your pension and shit?” and he says that they had put too much work into the project to walk away after the government pulled out. And his wife is like “’WE?’ WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘WE’? I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT EMILY WOULD BE INVOLVED, THAT HARLOT!” This despite the fact that there has been literally no indication that Dr. Ewan can even stand to be in the same room as Emily since the last time she and Dr. Ewan saw each other. But apparently she googled Emily and saw how young and hot she is, so she tells Dr. Ewan that he’s making a fool of himself over “some short-skirted office girl.” GIVE ME A BREAK, MOVIE. Dr. Ewan storms off yelling “SHE’S JUST A FRIEND!!!!” and goes to talk to the fish in his pond. But his shrew wife comes out and asks if he’s in love with Emily and he’s like “Nothing’s happened and it probably won’t but LOL yeah I am.”
He apologizes and she gives a speech like “You are just having a midlife crisis and in six months you’ll come crawling back to me because it’s in your DNA!” and Dr. Ewan doesn’t register any of that except the DNA part which gives him a fish epiphany, which we know because suddenly we see him through…
Just to make double sure that we realize he’s had an epiphany, we get those shots of salmon in the water from the opening credits and a voiceover of what Dr. Ewan’s wife said literally 30 seconds ago about DNA.
Dr. Ewan goes back to the Scottish castle and tells them that the farm salmon will actually be totally fine because swimming upstream is in their DNA. The Sheikh is like “Oh did you find some research about it or something?” and Dr. Ewan says “No, I just know it” and as the mystical music flares up the Sheikh is like “HA HA GOTCHA! FAITH! YA GOD BURNT!” and Dr. Ewan is just like “LOL you’re right I get faith now.”
So they fly the farm salmon into the valley via helicopter and dump them in the river. There are some shots of Dr. Ewan and Emily feeding the salmon and being cute together or whatever, mostly just to prepare us for the next scene in which Kristin is playing videogames with her son but gets interrupted by a call telling her that one of the soldiers from the operation where everybody was supposedly dead is actually alive. I WONDER WHICH ONE!!!!!!!!!!
She finds out that it’s Ichabod, and tells the person on the phone to make sure that the press doesn’t find out because she has a brand new scheme now.
Meanwhile in Yemen, the Sheikh is saying a prayer over the salmon in preparation for the imminent commencement of Salmon Quest. He goes and finds Dr. Ewan and Emily hanging out on the dam and says that though he started Salmon Quest as a way of glorifying God (give me a break), he now wonders if they’re actually glorifying man (you think?) (also this is a thought you might have stumbled upon 50 million pounds ago, I’m not saying I’m just saying).
That night Dr. Ewan and Emily go for a sexy swim in the salmon river like normal coworkers. Emily says that she doesn’t know how she would have gotten through the Ichabod debacle if it weren’t for Salmon Quest. He’s like “That’s cool. Unrelated: I left my shrew wife and she told me I was genetically programmed to come back to her but she was totally wrong, I belong here with you.” She smiles at him and I mean, he is shirtless so Ichabod-grief notwithstanding I can't really judge her for having a ladyboner.
He asks if theoretically there might be something between them and she says yes, but she needs time. He’s like “COOLIO” and she kisses him on the cheek.
The next morning it’s time to see if Salmon Quest will work or not. Kristin and some government officials are there because they are back on board because of Kristin’s Ichabod-centric schemes. Plus there’s a fuckload of reporters, because part of Kristin’s plan involves getting a photo-op with some government dude fishing.
Dr. Ewan and Emily are hanging out on the pier and he shows her the new fly he made. And he named it after her of course because he is super slick. She’s touched. But unfortunately their romantic moment is interrupted by a helicopter zooming in and SURPRISE! It’s Ichabod.
Emily spots him and runs to him, leaving a very frowny-faced Dr. Ewan to watch them cry and hug and kiss. He clenches his fist so hard around the fly he named after Emily that he draws blood.
So Kristin’s sneaky plan was to use the romantic reunion as a publicity stunt so there’s an impromptu press conference about how true love is great and also look how we’re BFFs with Yemen now because of the salmon thing, everything is perfect and there are no problems in the Middle East!
Emily has to awkwardly field questions about how happy and in love she is, and the reporters make them kiss for the cameras. Dr. Ewan sulks over on a hill and the Sheikh strolls up to say he’s sorry that he got so magnificently cockblocked.
That night Emily and Ichabod get set up in a dope tent and Ichabod assumes that he’ll be getting some action considering that he just heroically came back from the dead, but Emily is acting shy and awkward and asks if it’s ok if they just snuggle or whatever. He’s like “Remember how like a million years ago at the beginning of this movie I said I was a Good Guy? I’m a totally good guy so no rush.” Before they go to sleep he’s like “Oh BTW, lololololololol howtf did you get involved in this colossally stupid project?” and she’s like:
Dr. Ewan is all by himself in his tent with a sad boner, and he gets a text from his wife that just says “Don’t leave me.” Ah, modern love. But even though he can never have his precious Emily now, he still doesn’t want to be with his wife because she’s such an icy shrew so he texts back a rejection.
The next morning he stands forlornly on a hill looking off into the distance. Ichabod comes to join him and thanks him for being there for Emily during his absence. Dr. Ewan doesn’t even pretend to play along and just straight up tells Ichabod that he loves Emily. This is the hero of our movie who we’re supposed to be rooting for, BTW.
Ichabod is such a Good Guy that he just stands there awkwardly for a second and then asks if Emily loves Dr. Ewan back. Dr. Ewan is like “Now that you’re alive I may never know :( :( :(” which ruffles Ichabod’s feathers enough that he sarcastically apologizes for not being dead. And Dr. Ewan says he can’t accept his apology and Ichabod is like:
Dr. Ewan says he’s sort of joking and that it’s all right and walks away. I don’t know how his face didn’t get punched in that scene but whatever.
It’s Salmon Quest Day! The Sheikh makes a speech for the press about how nobody knows if this is going to work or not but he sure hopes it does and then some stuff about how he wants to paint the desert green so his people can get jobs as farmers or something and then he starts on the faith thing again and I fall asleep and then they finally open the fish gates and everybody holds their breath as the most suspenseful moment of their lives unfolds before them.
At first the dumb fish start going the wrong way, but then one has a DNA moment and turns around and all the other fish lemmings follow. OMG IT WORKED! THANK GOD! Emily and Dr. Ewan hug and he lifts her up in the air and Ichabod is the frowny-faced onlooker now.
They share a group hug with the Sheikh and prepare to go fishing. Kristin gets her photo of the government dude fishing with Ichabod. Everybody’s happy (well except poor Ichabod I guess, but who cares about him, he’s the only decent character with noble motivations).
Sadly the festivities come to an end when some of the Anti-Salmon Quest Brigade murder a guard on the dam and open the floodgates so that everybody nearly gets drowned by a giant wave. The Sheikh and Dr. Ewan catch hold of a boulder and help each other get out of the water and I’m like who does the Sheikh think he’s kidding with his multiple wives, just kiss him already!
But he doesn’t :(
Also all of the salmon are dead or got washed away or something so the Sheikh is super sad and everything is ruined. Dr. Ewan walks through the ruins of the camp and I think somebody forgot to tell the art director that it just got washed away in a flood because it looks like it was recently on fire.
Dr. Ewan symbolically burns the fishing rods which seems like a waste of perfectly good equipment. He and Emily share a meaningful gaze with Ichabod standing literally right there because they’re good people.
That night Emily is like “Who would do such a terrible thing?” and the Sheikh says he knows exactly who it was, but he doesn’t want to arrest them despite the fact that they actively murdered that one guard and also drowned several people. But I guess none of them were main characters so it’s NBD. He says that while the dudes are definitely bad, maybe they had a point because nobody understood that the point of Salmon Quest wasn’t salmon but… I don’t know, he doesn’t say. I also don’t understand what the point of Salmon Quest was but I didn’t murder anybody, just sayin’.
Emily asks if he’ll try again and says he will if they help him. Emily is like “I dunno, Ichabod probably wants to go home” and Dr. Ewan is like “I don’t have a home I don’t know what to do now that all of my dreams have been snatched away” and Emily is like “Oh crap, I forgot about that whole thing, this is awkward.”
They prepare to leave the next day and Emily tells Ichabod that she’s going to say goodbye to Dr. Ewan. He’s like “The only thing that kept me going when I was lost in the desert was the thought of you” which is maybe the saddest thing I’ve ever heard considering he only knew her a few weeks. Like there might be a decent movie to be made about this guy’s sad empty life of loss and betrayal. Emily feels guilty, but he says she doesn’t owe him anything I guess because she already saved his life or something? It’s unclear. But he basically gives her his blessing to go to Dr. Ewan if she wants.
Emily goes to Dr. Ewan and apologizes about how things turned out with Ichabod, and says she didn’t mean to hurt him and she doesn’t know what to do. She asks if he’s going to stay and he says “What for? There’s nothing for me here now that you’re gone and there’s not a single fish in the river.” This would be the perfect opportunity for Emily to say “Maybe not, but there’s plenty of fish in the sea,” drop the mic and peace out back to Ichabod, but unfortunately she does not.
Dr. Ewan starts to walk away but then the Sheikh, who has been creepily spying on them from a nearby rock this whole time, calls out to them because OMFG THERE’S A SALMON IN THE RIVER! They didn’t all die after all! So Dr. Ewan is going to stay for Salmon Quest 2.0 because he is easily swayed by small symbolic events. He has also apparently had an epiphany that they need to involve the local community more this time to avoid any more murders.
Emily stares at him with the googliest of eyes and asks if he need a partner and he’s like “Yup, in my pants!” and they make out.
Meanwhile Ichabod is still standing where Emily left him because she never actually told him what she was going to do, so he has to just stand there and watch her and Dr. Ewan and when they start kissing he gets the idea and leaves without her. I’m pretty sure her luggage was in his car so at least he got some small revenge.
Emily and Dr. Ewan hold hands on the pier and the sun sets and you think the movie’s over, but LOL it’s not because we have one last HILARIOUS moment of Kristin’s wacky political shenanigans before the credits:
And what better way to end this masterpiece than with a somewhat racist conversation between two assholes who had very little bearing on the plot of the movie! Perfection.