Netflix streaming, DEAN SPANLEY (or My Talks With Dean Spanley, as it is also called) is a splendid example of quiet British/New Zealand humor and character that slowly, delectably expands into one of the richest and most moving of movies. It is also, by the by, one of cinema's great dog stories -- not to mention perhaps the best piece of reincarnation folderol we've yet seen.
Toa Fraser (shown at left) and adapted from one of the works of Ireland's Lord Dunsany by that very good late Scot screenwriter Alan Sharp (Ulzana's Raid, Night Moves), sneaks up on you, promising to be one thing (on which it actually delivers) but then morphing into something quite else. I'd call it a genre-jumper, except that jumping is an activity far too energized for this quiet little charmer. Let's call it a genre-glider. In any case, it is very nearly sui generis.
Boer War, as a "good son" (Jeremy Northam, above, left) pays his weekly visit to his seemingly semi-doddering dad (Peter O'Toole, above, right, in perhaps his best final-decade performance). Ah, we think: one of those little British gems of understatement, family and buried wit.
Tokay wine, the plot thickens very slowly until we're neck deep in one of movieland's more fabulous dog stories. In its odd way, this one rivals Lassie on the one hand and My Dog Tulip on the other. I am not sure I have ever seen a film which captured as well as this one the dog's life from the POV of the dog itself.
Miramax, which, when Dean Spanley first appeared (end of 2008 into 2009), was undergoing a separation from Disney (a company it never should have "married" to begin with), and so the film -- much better and subtler than so much of the Disney stuff -- seems to have been buried in the shuffle that occurs when a distribution company moves from one owner to another, receiving neither a theatrical nor a timely DVD release here.
Netflix streaming, where it will no doubt pull in the huge cult following it so surely deserves. You can also find it on DVD and Amazon Instant Video. (I understand, from Wikipedia, that it has also been shown on cable TV at some point, so perhaps you were lucky enough to catch it there.)