Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dean Spanley

We watched this on NetFlix the other night.  At first I was put out with the idea of reincarnation, but something about it--the actors, I guess--pulled me in to what left me almost teary-eyed.  I have always said I was a sucker for a dog story, even one as preposterous as this one.

In short, Peter O'Toole plays a very hateful old man who makes life miserable for his remaining son, Jeremy Northam, who tries to have a relationship with him.  This is in pre-WW I England.  O'Toole's son was killed in the Boer War and his wife died after that, and he is bitter yet fails to see that his son has lost two loved ones also.  A strange Anglican priest (or dean, not sure of the hierarachy there) comes into their life, and when he drinks a rare, expensive wine procured for Northam by an odd Australian (Bryan Brown), the dean talks about his former life as a dog.  Like I said, way weird. 

O'Toole had a dog as a child who ran off one day with a stray mutt friend and never came back.  His son never came back.  The dean is the dog.  He tells a captivating story of his last day of life running with his friend and how he was shot, although as a dog he didn't know that.  The old man realizes that happened to both his son, returning home from a patrol in South Africa, and to his dog.

My description doesn't do it justice, and it is weird, but it is essentially about grief.  I am upset writing about it, because I lost my brother three years ago, suddenly, and it was a complicated relationship.  I was at his bedside when he died, with my mother. He was unconscious already, so he went to permanent unconsciousness, so to speak.  In October, not to equalize them, we put our dog to sleep in my arms and that was not what I expected.  Both died suddenly due to sudden illnesses and there was nothing to be done for them.  I realized through the movie that I too had conflated them, confused them emotionally, that losing the dog was hard because of losing my brother in so much the same manner, as silly as that might sound. 

My point is that a film can bring up feelings and experiences we don't expect.  I was quite taken aback by it.

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