Dean Spanley

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 40min

STARRING: Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill, Peter O’Toole, Bryan Brown

The boor war: from left, Northam and O’Toole

Henslow Fisk (Northam), or “Young Fisk” as his irascible boor of a father, Horatio (O’Toole), calls him, is a sad style of fellow, buttoned up and down even for 1904 England. Then Henslow meets the distinguished Dean Spanley (Neill) at a lecture on reincarnation. Spanley is a man of the cloth who, under the influence of the Hungarian sweet wine Imperial Tokay, recalls his previous life as a dog. So fascinated is Henslow that he can’t help but share the Dean, first with the matey Australian Wrather (Brown), who is sourcing him the pricey and uncommon plonk, and then with his emotionally estranged pater.


How the whimsical concept of Lord Dunsay’s 1936 novella becomes a journey of release and gratitude is a tribute to the seamless alchemy of this British–New Zealand co-production. Alan Sharp’s screenplay, intuitive direction from Toa Fraser (No. 2 ) and absolutely at-home actors make the transition from the piquant to the redemptive as smooth as a vintage tipple and just as intoxicating. Salut.