Friday, June 1, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

So I guess "the Yemen" is what they say in "the England" then, is it?

Anyway, I'll tell you what I think about this movie. I think it has no artistic merit whatsoever. I think it pretty much sucks. In fact, I would go so far as to say it's the sort of bullshit that promotes the dangeously false idea, very prevalent in our culture, that it is possible to choose a life path that will provide a constant emotional high.

The plot goes something like this (spoiler alert): Guy has some kind of a government science job he seems to like, more or less. He has a wife he seems to like too, more or less. Then there's this girl who also has a job that seems like it's ok, and she has a soldier boyfriend who gets sent to Afghanistan (read: gets sent conveniently out of the picture). The two characters, guy and girl, get put together to work on some sort of weird project in which salmon get transported to the Yemen so that the Yemeni locals get to experience the unequivocally awesome experience of salmon fishing (?) and wouldn't you know it, being alone together with salmon in the Yemen is way more fun than being boring and having some kind of a regular job and wife and absentee boyfriend and stuff back home! So the guy breaks with his wife and they decide to stay there and work on the salmon project FOREVER!

Here's the thing. While being somewhere different and doing something different may be fun and, well, different for a given period of time, pretty much anything becomes boring if you do it forever. Or rather, it becomes just like your old life was, except that instead of sitting at a desk in London or wherever they were, now you're in a frigging river in Yemen. But even though being in a river in Yemen may be kind of a different thing for you, if you do it all the time, day in day out, it will at some point become normal. And then you'll be like, "I know! Fly fishing in Saudi Arabia! That would make me feel fulfilled!" and so on, if you see what I'm saying.

These kinds of movies kind of piss me off because they seem to contribute to the profoundly incorrect assumption many of us seem to have that we can vastly change our level of happiness by changing something superficial about our circumstances, like where we are or what we're doing. I'm not saying we can or should do something or live somewhere we really hate, but the thing about people who are happy, I've noticed, is that their happiness level does not significantly change with their situation, at least not for the long term. Even a good relationship, which we like to think of as the be all and end all of what we're all striving for, has limited power to make us happy if we're not happy in the first place. Yeah you might be sad if you lose your job or your relationship or whatever, but a happy person won't be sad for that long. At a certain point, they'll get on with the business of being happy because that's their way of living. So if you think happiness can come from anything besides yourself, you're in for a tough ride, that's what I think.

There's this one scene in this movie where the guy's wife, upon finding out about the guy's desire to be with someone else, gets really upset and says "I give you six months and you're back." I sort of had to laugh because I think the audience was supposed to think "no way, this guy's desire for love and a change in his life are real!" when actually, I thought that if the movie were real life she would probably be right - because that thing I said before about fly fishing in Saudi Arabia isn't always true. Sometimes, when you make a huge change and then the change reaches the point of normalcy, you might be like "wait a sec, boring job and wife and house and stuff were actually kind of better than salmon in Yemen, considering that I have no friends here, don't speak any Arabic, and can't find a decent bagel." And then you may want your old life back.

Yet despite all this, I have to admit I kind of enjoyed watching Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Probably because like everyone, I too like to fantasize that a change in circumstances will transform my life into a constant emotional high, even though I know that's not true.

1 comment :

  1. Jennie, I feel like we often have different views on the world, but on this topic, you are bang-on. Awesome post!