34 user 28 critic

Dean Spanley (2008)

PG | | Comedy, Drama | 12 December 2008 (UK)
2:40 | Trailer

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Set in Edwardian England where upper lips are always stiff and men from the Colonies are not entirely to be trusted, Fisk Senior has little time or affection for his son, but when the pair visit an eccentric Indian, they start a strange journey that eventually allows the old man to find his heart.


Toa Fraser


Alan Sharp, Lord Dunsany (novel) (as Baron Dunsany)
7 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeremy Northam ... Fisk Junior
Sam Neill ... Dean Spanley
Bryan Brown ... Wrather
Peter O'Toole ... Fisk Senior
Judy Parfitt ... Mrs. Brimley
Art Malik ... Swami Nala Prash
Ramon Tikaram ... Nawab of Ranjiput
Xavier Horan ... Harrington Fisk
Barbara Wilshere ... 1st Lady
Angela Clerkin Angela Clerkin ... 2nd Lady
Dudley Sutton ... Marriot
Shaughan Seymour Shaughan Seymour ... Wine Shop Proprietor
Charlotte Graham Charlotte Graham ... Woman in Cloisters
Haydon Downing Haydon Downing ... Boy in Cloisters
Miriama McDowell ... Foxy Lady


Each Thursday, a man approaching middle age calls upon his father, aged, caustic, nihilistic, and emotionally distant, perhaps from the loss of a son in the Boer War and his wife soon after. On this day, the son suggests they attend a visiting guru's lecture on the transmigration of souls. There they chat with a vicar and a soldier of fortune; dinner follows. Over glasses of Hungarian Tokay, the vicar, Dean Spanley, tells a story of friendship, freedom, and reincarnation. In what earthly way could this tale connect father and son? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A shaggy dog story that will warm the heart of even the meanest Scrooge See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some thematic material and mild language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official site [UK]


New Zealand | UK



Release Date:

12 December 2008 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Dynas Spenlis See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£42,898 (United Kingdom), 14 December 2008, Limited Release
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Peter O'Toole said the use of comedy to explore the relationship between a father and son was part of what attracted him to the film. He remarked: "All of us had difficult familial relationships. I think it's a film for all of us who understand the relationship between a father and son. It's been interesting watching various members of the crew looking at the monitors during scenes. They come up to me then and say "I had the same thing with my father." See more »


Fisk Senior: Do not presume to judge me, young Fisk.
Fisk Junior: I should first have to understand you, father. And that, I confess, I do not.
Fisk Senior: Perhaps you would have to become a father first.
Fisk Junior: Your example disinclines me to that particular comprehension I'm afraid.
See more »


Oh Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?
Performed by Musica Sacra Orchestra (as Musica Sacra)
Written by William Boyce
See more »

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User Reviews

Very unusual but polished; Anglophiles or sophisticated film fans will enjoy it
12 December 2011 | by Amy AdlerSee all my reviews

Mr. Fisk, Jr. (Jeremy Northam) visits his cantankerous father, Fisk Sr. (Peter O'Toole) every Thursday for the noon meal. The long-standing cook and housekeeper, Mrs. Brimley (Judy Parfitt) always makes the same "hotpot" meal, for that's what Sr. demands. Knowing his father is in a rut and becoming more ornery every day, younger Fisk suggests that the two of them go hear a lecture on reincarnation. Most reluctantly, older Fisk agrees to go. Once there, another attendee asks the man if people can appear again as an animal or visa versa. The speaker says yes. Meanwhile, younger Fisk has gotten to know a gentleman named Dean Spanley (Sam Neill) who was at the "club" and likes an unusual drink, Tokai. Wanting to know the man better, Fisk Jr. asks a dealer (Bryan Brown) for the beverage, which turns out to be very expensive. But, its seems to be the only way to get a meeting with Spanley! Over glasses of the drink, younger Fisk is startled to hear an account of Dean's that he was once a DOG and what happened in his previous life! Well, well. Since the tale is spellbinding, Fisk listens. Will more earth shaking secrets be revealed? You bet! This is a very sophisticated film, told mostly in dialogue, and it focuses primarily on the male characters. Anglophiles will like it or film goers with refined tastes, as there is very little action. All of the acting is terrific, as are the beautiful sets and costumes. Script and direction are up to snuff, too. Therefore, if you admire the cast, as I do, or like the unusual offerings in the cinematic arena, go fetch dear Dean.

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