It started a little unpromisingly (it's a New Zealand/British co-production, which, perhaps unfairly, suggests state-aided stodge to me, and the opening scenes are all gloomy interiors). Peter O'Toole plays a grumpy, curmudgeonly old man, obsessively set in his ways, who refuses to admit to any grief over the death of his wife, or of his favourite son, killed in the South African war. His surviving son, played by Jeremy Northam, dutifully pays him a joyless visit once a week, and one day, in an effort to vary the routine, persuades him to attend a talk on reincarnation. There they encounter Sam Neill's Dean Spanley (who's the Dean of a cathedral, not just someone called Dean) and Bryan Brown's Australian jack-the-lad, Wrowther. From that point the story veers off in a rather strange and unexpected direction involving vintage tokay and some dogs. The dour, oppressive mood of the early scenes lightens, broadens, and by the end it has become extraordinarily sweet and touching.
It may make you want to buy a dog.