Currently streaming on Netflix from writer/director John Lee Hancock based on a novella by Stephen King is MR. HARRIGAN’S PHONE.
Craig (Jaeden Martell) lives in a small town with his father attending church on Sundays trying not to think of his life without a mother. During his time at church, the young Craig meets Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) and begins an extraordinary friendship. Spending time together, talking about everything together, Craig even introduces the elderly gentleman to a cell phone after winning money on a lottery ticket.
School is a sometimes good and sometimes bad experience for Craig. The few friends Craig has are more acquaintances and the school bully Kenny (Cyrus Arnold) that consistently puts the boys life in peril and threat. Even favorite teacher Ms. Hart (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) tries to help the boy but Craig would rather spend time with Mr. Harrigan.
He tells Mr. Harrigan about wanting to go to college and his hopes for the future as the elderly gentleman listens intently. One day, Craig comes for his visit only to find that Mr. Harrigan has passed away. Devastated to have lost someone that has affected his life so greatly, Craig is even more surprised to learn that Mr. Harrigan has taken care of things for him.
But as the days go on, the cell phone that once belonged to Mr. Harrigan begins to act strangely and Craig now goes through a time of disturbing happenings that he can not possibly explain. He also does not know if he will be able to escape it all.
Martell as Craig is a young man who has lost his mother and tries to fill the void by being a good son to his father. The relationship with Mr. Harrigan is one that does not come with any emotional strings for the boy which is freeing. It allows him to be exactly who he is and Martell gives every bit of that hidden behind the eyes of a boy who wants so much more for his life.
Sutherland as Mr. Harrigan is, as always, so very amazing on the screen. The scene where he talks about the problems with cell phones and where it will lead is so spot on that there is no way to disagree with him. That being said, what happens later on is a little more than anyone can find on Goggle that’s for sure. Sutherland is an actor I have always greatly admired and I never miss anything he is in, good or not-so-good because I know his acting is always going to be straight forward.
Howell-Baptiste as Ms. Hart is the kind of teacher many of us can relate to because we have all had that one (or two) that have made such an impact. Ms. Hart sees Craig’s struggles and knows what is happening with Kenny yet allows the young man to decide for himself how to handle it. Arnold as Kenny is a young man who clearly has a life that is out of control. There is something driving him to choose Craig and it is frightening.
Other cast include Thomas Francis Murphy as Pete, Joe Tippett as Craig’s father, Colin O’Brien as young Craig, Peggy J. Scott as Edna Grogan, Ivan Amaro Bullon as the Sheriff, and Daniel Reece as Deane Whitmore.
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If you are looking to be scared out of your wits, then MR. HARRIGAN’S PHONE is not the film for you. This is more of a lessons-to-be-learned type of film with one or two moments thrown in for good measure. From the beginning it is clear that this is a Stephen King story by how it begins and the small town feel within the story.
Being that it came out in October, I was silly enough to think that perhaps it had spooks, frights and a jump now and then but alas no. Instead, the film sort of gave me a lecture on the evils of cell phones with a bit of vengeance from the grave on the side. As Mr. Harrigan finds himself a little hooked on the phone, the cautionary tale lecture on misinformation and ‘fake news’ has a 2020 ring to it which made me groan.
MR. HARRIGAN’S PHONE had the potential to be so much more but, then again, had it been more we might have been seeing another version of THE BLACK PHONE that was written by none of than Joe Hill – yes, Stephen King’s son. Makes me wonder if their writing desks are just a little to close to one another!
There is no mistaking that Stephen King is the master writer and I have curled up too many of his books. So much so that the thicker ones never left my side until they were finished. I love his writing and his mastery of storytelling. As an avid reader, I owe many nights curled up in the chair until realizing the sun was coming up to Mr. King. Some stories just don’t capture the feel of the story that unfolds in the readers mind and that’s okay. On to the next!
In the end – some connections never die!