- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (3D)
- Promise, The
- Belko Experiment, The
- Finding Fatimah
- Free Fire
- Their Finest
- Fast & Furious 8
- Hatton Garden Job, The
- Boss Baby, The (3D)
- Autopsy of Jane Doe, The
- Lost City of Z, The
- City of Tiny Lights
- Quiet Passion, A
- Void, The
- Man Down
- Ghost in the Shell (3D)
Stars: Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill, Jeremy Northam, Bryan Brown, Judy Parfitt, Art Malik, Dudley Sutton, Ramon Tikaram
Director: Tod Fraser
Both a father-and-son story and a cleric's accounts of his previous existence as a dog (a spaniel, of course), Dean Spanley, set in 1904, is a charmer when it gets going, although, despite a few droll moments early on, it is slow to get to the pith of things.
O'Toole, in the nearest he'll ever get to playing Scrooge, is Fisk, a miserable if apparently wealthy old man who has refused to grieve over the death of a son killed in the Boer War. His other son, Henslowe (Northam), still visits him on Thursdays, a habit which he has come to describe as 'the weekly ritual'.
This soulless succesion of stiff conversations is broken by a visit to a swami (Malik) lecturing on The Transmigration of Souls - in other words, reincarnation. Asked if she believes in this, Fisk's housekeeper (Parfitt, channelling Kathleen Harrison) replies 'No, I don't believe in letting foreigners in.'
At the lecture, Henslowe encounters Dean Spanley (Neill) and, on a whim, invites him to dinner with the bait of his favourite tipple, the Hungarian dessert wine Tokay, obtained for him by an Australian 'facilitator' (Brown) with a finger in many pies. Under the influence of the wine, the Dean reveals his former life as a dog called Wag, coincidentally the name of Old Fisk's favourite pooch, who disappeared mysteriously when Fisk was a boy.
Funny here and here, the film becomes moving towards the end as Spanley's history reaches its climax at a third Tokay-fuelled session, attended for the first time by old Fisk himself. Cultured performances lend this oddity a certain charm, though it won't be to everybody's taste.
New Zealand/UK 2008. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour by FilmLab.
100 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.
Review date: 09 Dec 2008