Mr. Harrigan’s Phone : An adaptation that rings false
The film produced by Ryan Murphy and directed by John Lee Hancock was released on Netflix on Wednesday, October 5. Adapted from the short novel by Stephen King, this film has a hard time to develop itself and really intrigue.
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone focuses on the relationship between an extremely wealthy old man, Mr. Harrigan, (Donald Sutherland) and Craig, a young high school student played by Jaeden Martell (It). He is hired to read books to Mr. Harrigan, who can’t do so by himself with his tired eyes.
A moving and relevant beginning
The relationship between Craig and Mr. Harrigan remains formal, despite the director’s intention to show the importance of those reading sessions for each character. It’s a moment of calm and friendship for Craig and a moment of exchange for Mr. Harrigan. They do not just read but also discuss and reflect on the themes of the books they cover. Their exchanges are convincing and very profound, taking the viewer to the heart of a promising story.
Mr. Harrigan, experienced by his age and wealth, is like a mentor to Craig, which gives him confidence over time. The character played by Donald Sutherland used to give Craig lottery tickets as a gift and Craig ended up winning $3,000 through one of those scratch games. He then decides to buy a phone to Mr. Harrigan who does not own a television nor a radio. Thus, the film embarks on a critique of the virtual world, true but irrelevant in comparison to the profound discussions they had in the first 40 minutes of the film.
A turning point that barely holds up
Mr. Harrigan dies of a heart problem and the film’s real plot begins to take hold. Craig leaves the phone in the coffin as his last gift. Then begins an interesting concept: Craig suddenly receives cryptic messages from Mr Harrigan’s phone. It then becomes the link between life and death. Craig’s wishes are fulfilled, whether benevolent or malicious, but his problems are often resolved unexpectedly. At the heart of this story could have been a human reflection : the need to do everything to repair a wrong or what each would do in possession of such “power”. However, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone does not reach this moral point until the end of the film and does not fully focus on the mysterious messages.
On the contrary: the film continues its journey by telling the story of Craig, whose moving through life in his new university. The viewer does not necessarily understand where the film is headed, which had put a certain emphasis on life and death. We almost forget some supernatural actions that occurred around the main character, including the death of a high school student who was his stalker. The first part seems completely detached from the second, without really finding a bridge to connect the two.
A moral that soothes
Through a scenario that may have had trouble developing outside of Stephen King’s novel, the film still manages to keep the attention. It attracts by his various messages. In addition, Donald Sutherland delivers a rather moving perfomance in the skin of the mysterious Mr Harrigan as well as Jaeden Martell as Craig. As for the end of the film, it connects all the impactful and emotional moments of the first part, to the human questioning of the rest of the film. Craig, who had attended university, returned to his hometown after the death of his favourite high school teacher. Having had a car accident because of a drunk driver, finally comes the expected human morality. Should Craig ask Mr Harrigan’s ghost to kill the guilty driver? Or should he continue to live after this tragic accident?
The choice made in the film is not as relevant as the morality that flows directly from this question. Craig understands through this experience, of indecision and choice, that Mr Harrigan wanted to help him move on and forget in order to do so. This tension built throughout the film is quite quick to resolve in the last few minutes of the film.
Despite a clumsy adaptation that lacks action, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone nonetheless manages to hold attention and raise tension. Donald Sutherland is mesmerizing but the film suffers after the death of his character. Jaeden Martell manages to carry the film on his shoulders but the rest leaves the viewer on its end.