Dean Spanley (My Talks with Dean Spanley)


Dean Spanley (My Talks with Dean Spanley)

Critics Consensus

Offbeat, whimsical, period-set shaggy dog story with daffy performances from Sam Neill and Peter O'Toole.



Total Count: 30


Audience Score

User Ratings: 964
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Movie Info

Multiple Oscar nominee Peter O'Toole adds yet another offbeat role to his long resume with the mystical comedy-drama Dean Spanley. Adapted from Lord Dunsany's popular novella My Talks with Dean Spanley and helmed by Toa Fraser, the film stars O'Toole as Horatio Fisk, an irascible, cantankerous septuagenarian living out his final days at the turn of the 20th Century. Despite his distant and slightly strained relationship with his son Henslowe (Jeremy Northam), Horatio willfully joins the young man on regular outings; the tedium and monotony of these routines eventually grow so overwhelming, however, that the two decide to attend a lecture on the Transmigration of Souls by a visiting Hindu Swami. At the meeting, their paths intersect with the eccentric Dean Spanley (Sam Neill), and a friendship blossoms between Spanley and Henslowe. When Spanley joins Henslowe for a private dinner, and accepts his invitation to sample a rare Hungarian wine known as the Imperial Tokay, Spanley instinctively brings forth reminiscences of a prior life lived out as a canine - and his recollections hold a rather bizarre connection to Horatio's familial past. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

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Jeremy Northam
as Young Fisk
Sam Neill
as Dean Spanley
Peter O'Toole
as Fisk Senior
Bryan Brown
as Wrather
Judy Parfitt
as Mrs. Brimley
Art Malik
as Swami Presh
Charlotte Graham
as Woman in Park
Jenna Pollard
as Housemaid
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Critic Reviews for Dean Spanley (My Talks with Dean Spanley)

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (26) | Rotten (4)

  • Fraser and Sharp have structured the film, and the cast interpret it, so that comedy and poignancy are intertwined to the last; even as all is revealed, a sense of wonder remains.

    Mar 6, 2009 | Full Review…
  • This nicely acted drama, in quietly intimating the quirky familial relations and peculiar fascinations of the era - not least with the transmigration of souls, mysticism and the supernatural - delivers a highly pleasurable if modest experience.

    Dec 12, 2008 | Rating: 4/6 | Full Review…

    Wally Hammond

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • I can't see too many children taking advantage of the U certificate. The measured performances look stiff and theatrical. A stifling fable with the rhythm of a grandfather clock.

    Dec 12, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • This is a charming and eccentric little family comedy for the older generation. It's like a Werther's Original sweet that's for grandpa only.

    Dec 12, 2008 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • This is really a shaggy dog story that takes too long to start barking. But when it does, it works a treat. It's amazing how much you can forgive if the last part of a movie is right, and this one covers itself in something like glory in the nick of time.

    Dec 12, 2008 | Rating: 3/5
  • A dull and thoroughly stilly British drama based on the idea of canine reincarnation.

    Oct 10, 2008

Audience Reviews for Dean Spanley (My Talks with Dean Spanley)

  • May 15, 2013
    Peter O'Toole adds to his legacy by boring us to death in Dean Spanley
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 02, 2011
    What a pleasant surprise this movie turned out to be. It's a wonderful and lovely little movie. And it's a movie that could have been pretty goofy if not handled correctly. But instead, it's handled expertly with a lot of intelligence and charm. The acting is fantastic. Peter O'Toole is out of this world, there's this scene near the end when Sam Neill's character is telling his story and Peter's facials while hearing this story were just amazing. This might sound corny, but his eyes told a story that was heartbreaking, yet at the same time full of closure for his character. The final act of the movie, overall, is just fantastic. It's touching, sweet and funny. Also I must give Sam Neill a lot of credit for his performance, it must not be easy, at least as far as preparation, to play a man who was a dog in a previous life and almost all of his dialogue would consist of memories of his life as a dog. How the FUCK do you prepare for that??? I don't know, but Sam Neill pulled it off and convincingly as well, so thumbs up. Shitty review, but this is an excellent movie. It's funny, off-beat, and touching with some amazing performances. I HIGHLY recommend this movie, not like that means a hell of a lot.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 27, 2011
    Based on a book by Irish fantasy pioneer Lord Dunsany (1878-1957), this tale of a dog reincarnated as an Anglican clergyman is oddly winsome, despite a few moments that veer dangerously close to goofy. Toa Fraser keeps the silliness mostly at bay by making full comic use of his excellent cast ? including Peter O'Toole, Jeremy Northram, Bryan Brown and Sam Neill ? and grounds the story in the truly poignant father-and-son relationship at its heart. Set in Edwardian England, the sets are lush and everyone looks to be having a good time. In fact, O'Toole appears almost gleeful in his portrayal of a stuffed-shirt curmudgeon who recovers a boyish capacity for warmth. It's one of several fine turns, but to see a master in the twilight of his career play a man accepting his own losses and failures is undeniably affecting ? the other gentlemen step back as his performance lifts the story to another level. It is a comedy of manners and oh-so-clever wordplay that reeks of Oscar Wilde smugness but settles for lengthy analyses of canine customs and thought processes. Enjoy!
    Ovi G Super Reviewer
  • Apr 22, 2010
    i did really want to love this movie but i can only say i liked this movie! I tried watchng it 3 times and i still didnt get to the end as it really is my sort of movie!! i liked it because the story is original and it is sweet and like the story but it was just a litltle boring for me! It is funny in plces and sam neill is gorgouse as ever!!
    Film C Super Reviewer

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