Toa Fraser's DEAN SPANLEY
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
What a charming film this is! The story elements at first seem hard to pull together — grief, reincarnation, early 1900’s English fancy dinner parties, estranged sons, and beloved dogs long gone. But pull together they do.
In the process we are treated to a sweet, odball, yet curiously warm-hearted tale that unfolds gradually, avoids mawkishness, and which allows the characters to evolve in human and sometimes unexpected ways.
The cast is superb. Sam Neill leads with a surprisingly affecting and humorous performance as Dean Spanley whose memories of lives past is awakened by a rare wine. Jeremy Northam plays the estranged son of Peter O’Toole who continues to refuse acknowledgement of his other son’s death in the Boer War. Bryan Brown plays an oddball hanger-on who knows how to procure the Dean’s mystical wine.
The overarching theme is the relationship between the son and the father. O’Toole plays the old man as a cantankerous fool on the verge of dementia; Northam plays the son as resignedly attempting to bridge the emotional gap that has formed. Into this frosty relationship comes Dean Spanley with his bizarre memories of life as a dog. How these themes are intertwined is the stuff of this movie and its strong emotional appeal.
It also helps that the photography and music in this film are wonderful. Color balance in even dimly lit scenes is gorgeous and is helped along if you have a good high definition TV with good black levels. Also, the indoor sets in this film are incredible. Watch the rooms where Bryan Brown’s character hangs out; the stuffed animals are worth the price of admission!
When all is said and done this is Peter O’Toole’s movie. The sensitivity of his performance is amazing to watch. We are fortunate to have a record of such performances.
Review copyright (c) 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald. For more reviews like this scroll down. To find out about my consulting go here.