Yes, there is a movie starring “A” list actors about fisheries biology. Yes, you should definitely watch it.
The film (based on the novel by Paul Torday) is about a very serious fisheries biologist (Ewan McGregor) in London who is hired out of the blue by a consulting agent (Emily Blunt) to help a Yemeni sheikh (Amr Waked) start an Atlantic salmon fishery in the Yemen River.
If you can cast aside some of your healthy scientific cynicism, the movie is actually a delightful fantasy, with enough tension to keep you interested and invested in the story. As the movie goes on, it becomes apparent that it’s less about the fish, and more about the characters, but the backbone of the story arc- the seemingly impossible task of establishing a salmon fishery in the desert – is actually really well done.
The main character, Alfred is introduced to us as a sort of frustrated everyman who could use a little spice in his life. The profession of fisheries biology is not made to seem glamorous (at least not yet). He gets an email from Emily Blunt’s character about consulting on a fisheries project that will be bankrolled by a wealthy Yemeni sheikh with a passion for fly fishing, and supported by the British Prime Minister to strengthen international relations. Alfred vehemently opposes the project, and dismisses it as completely unfeasible, and foolhardy.
But, he is soon won over by the consultant and the sheikh, and when his wife takes a job in Geneva, he commits himself to the project. The rest of the story follows the challenges of raising hatchery vs. wild fish, the limitations imposed by the specific habitat requirements of salmonids, and the messy tangles of a love affair abroad.
Honestly I had low expectations when I rented it online, but the movie is really really nice, and only a little bit corny. The actors’ performances were great, and I was thrilled that somebody in Hollywood actually knew what a fisheries biologist was. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.