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Movie Reviews

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is a Coming-of-age Tale Lacking in Horror

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is the latest Stephen King adaptation, to be released on Netflix October 5th. Watch the trailer below and read on for our review of the film:

When Craig, a young boy living in a small town (Jaeden Martell) befriends Mr. Harrigan, an older, reclusive billionaire (Donald Sutherland), the two begin to form an unlikely bond over their love of books and reading. But when Mr. Harrigan sadly passes away, Craig discovers that not everything is dead and gone and strangely finds himself able to communicate with his friend from the grave through the iPhone in this supernatural coming-of-age story that shows that certain connections are never lost.

Based on the short story by Stephen King, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Founder). Produced by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story), Jason Blum (The Invisible Man) and Carla Hacken (Hell or High Water).      

The first thing to make clear about Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is that it is not a horror film. Seeing Jason Blum and Stephen King’s names attached suggests a darker tale than what we have here. There are dark elements, but it never goes full King. Director John Lee Hancock describes it as a supernatural coming-of-age story and that is a very accurate description.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone struggles with pacing at times, you can tell it was a short story stretched out to fill the 1hr 44min runtime. However, I was never bored. I wanted to know how it ended and I wanted some answers to the supernatural occurrences in the film, which kept me intrigued throughout. But there is no doubt that it takes too long to get going and tests the viewers patience occasionally.

The film relies heavily on Jaeden Martell (IT, Defending Jacob). Despite still being a teenager, Martell has put in many great performances going all the way back to St. Vincent nearly ten years ago. Once again, Martell handles the material well. The film covers a three-year period and Martell makes subtle changes to his performance to show Craig’s growth.

Donald Sutherland (Invasion of the Body Snatches, The Hunger Games) gives a nuanced performance as Mr. Harrigan. I expected another grouchy old man performance, but he is a deeper character who changes in the limited screen time he has. The relationship between Martell and Sutherland is the heart of the film and they work well together.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone. (L-R) Jaeden Martell as Craig and Donald Sutherland as Mr. Harrigan in Mr. Harrigan’s Phone. Cr. Nicole Rivelli/Netflix © 2022

The supporting cast largely doesn’t make much of an impact as they’re not given much screen time or development. Joe Tippett (Mare of Easttown) as Craig’s Dad has the most to do and puts in a good performance.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is well shot by director of photography John Schwartzman (Jurassic World Dominion). There are lots of wide angles, showing off the great work of production designer Michael Corenblith (Saving Mr. Banks). Together their work shows the somewhat cold nature of the world Craig inhabits.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone aims to show us the double-edged nature of our relationship with technology, something it accomplishes fairly well. The ending is somewhat open for interpretation, giving the viewer something to think about.

The film seems very suited to Netflix, it’s a small-scale film that doesn’t scream big screen. It may be tempting to scroll through your phone while watching it, but then you might miss the point. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is worth sticking with and investing your time and attention despite its flaws. Jaeden Martell is a great actor and is one to watch for the future. The messaging about technology isn’t exactly new but putting a Stephen King touch on it makes it interesting. While it isn’t a great film, there is enough good in Mr. Harrigan’s Phone to make it worth a watch if you go in knowing it’s lacking in scares.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is released on Netflix October 5th.

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