Mr. Harrigan’s Phone Review: A Grim Coming-of-Age Tale

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone has arrived just in time for the spooky season, joining a plethora of Stephen King adaptations on Netflix including 1922, In The Tall Grass, and Mike Flanagan’s film, Gerald’s Game. The newest addition is an adaptation of a novella of the same name from King’s book, If It Bleeds, a collection of four novellas in total.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone was directed and written for the screen by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Little Things), and stars Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games), Jaeden Martell (Knives Out), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (The Good Place), Joe Tippett (Mare of Easttown), and Cyrus Arnold (8-Bit Christmas). This is Martell’s second appearance in a King adaptation, as he also played Bill Denbrough in the 2017 reboot of IT.


The story follows a young boy named Craig (Martell) who, after losing his mother, is asked to read books to an aging billionaire, Mr. Harrigan (Sutherland), once a week. The two continue to meet for years and develop quite a close friendship despite how stubborn and stern Mr. Harrigan is. As Craig enters high school and gets the brand-new iPhone (the movie takes place in 2003) to keep up with the times, he also decides that Mr. Harrigan would appreciate the device as well, and the two bond over the new technology. Not too long after, Mr. Harrigan passes away, but Craig continues to get messages from Mr. Harrigan’s cellphone. Craig starts to use the phone in hopes of communicating with his old friend, and as he shares his grief and grievances, grim happenings start to take place seemingly as a response. Are they coincidences, or is Mr. Harrigan committing dark acts from the grave?

Great Chemistry From the Leads


At 87 years old, Donald Sutherland could be retired or phoning it in with his performances. That’s not the case with his role as Mr. Harrigan. Sutherland perfectly captures the cold, stern personality of an older man in today’s world. Rather than showing his emotions of friendship toward Craig with love and care, he shows it with financial stability and life advice, much of which Craig wouldn’t even use until later in life. The many little moments where Martell and Sutherland connect on screen do much of the heavy lifting for both the overall acting and the story of the film. At this point, Jaeden Martell is coming into his own as an actor and is starting to become a staple in the horror field. He’ll be joining A Quiet Place’s Noah Jupe in the upcoming remake of The Lost Boys in 2023.

Where Martell and Sutherland shine throughout the film is pretty much where the memorable performances end. No one did a bad job, but the other supporting characters just weren’t in the film enough to leave any kind of mark on it. Howell-Baptiste plays the role of Craig’s teacher extremely well, but we just aren’t attached to her for long enough to be destroyed by her unexpected fate. Arnold’s portrayal of Kenny Yankovich, Craig’s bully and perpetual antagonizer, wasn’t exactly up to par with the usual bully bad guys of King adaptations, ala Kiefer Sutherland in Stand by Me, or Nicholas Hamilton in the new IT movie, but he did a fine job in a minor role.

Related: Best Vampire Movies of the 80s, Ranked

A Grim Story, But Hardly Horrific

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone works really well as a novella or short story, but those looking for a faster-paced horror movie may want to look elsewhere. This film is more in the realm of King stories like Stand by Me or The Shawshank Redemption. There is an added element of the supernatural, but the story is focused on the coming-of-age aspect of Craig’s life, and the supernatural element is used more as a lesson than it is as a scary plot device. With that being said, the storytelling aspect of the film is very good, and the supernatural element is both up for interpretation and enough to keep the viewer waiting to see how it all plays out. The focus on the very real parts of our lives, whether happy or dark, is the point here. Sometimes, awful things happen in life, and relief and recovery can come from the most unconventional moments and friendships.

While those moments are certainly the highlight of the film, unfortunately, it doesn’t spend enough time on them. The overall substance of the film just doesn’t match the ideas behind it. The shift from reality to the possible supernatural comes quickly and doesn’t seem to have too much of an effect on our main character. Instead, he’s more concerned with the message behind the story, which alludes to our choices having grave consequences within ourselves, even if those choices are how we’re feeling at the time.

While Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is far from a great movie, it’s certainly worth the watch for someone that may be looking for a spooky movie that’s light on the frightening aspects, and heavy on the emotional ones.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is now available to stream on Netflix.

You can view the original article HERE.

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