Tuesday 18 October 2022

Movie Review: Mr. Harrigan's Phone (2022)

A drama with supernatural overtones, Mr. Harrigan's Phone is a compact story of good and evil vying for control.

In a small New England town, Craig is a young boy being brought up by his single dad (Joe Tippett) after the untimely death of his mother. The wealthy but reclusive Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland), a ruthless elderly businessman living in the community, requests Craig's services as a reader. Three times a week, Craig visits Mr. Harrigan's mansion and reads to him from classic books. This relationship goes on for many years, and evolves to include in-depth discussions about life, finance, and business.

Craig (Jaeden Martell) enters high school with Mr. Harrigan a big influence in his life. To show his appreciation, he gifts the old man his first cellular phone, and teaches him how to use it. At high school Craig is bullied by local goon Kenny (Cyrus Arnold), and develops an admiration for science teacher Ms. Hart (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). After Mr. Harrigan passes away, Craig is astounded to still receive messages from the dead man's phone, offering him a gateway to dark powers.

An adaptation of a Stephen King short story (with King co-producing the movie), Mr. Harrigan's Phone focuses on a young man's choices. Offering only touches of horror and suspense, writer and director John Lee Hancock opts for cautionary tale shadings. The mood is modestly foreboding, thanks to Donald Sutherland's intimidating presence and Harrigan's cavernous mansion, and for long stretches the drama tracks the straightforward awakening of a young mind to the world's complexities. When the time arrives for untimely deaths, the violence carries an edge but avoids gore.

Sutherland dominates the first half, and tension starts to drift sideways once Harrigan dies and is buried with his cell phone. Craig's journey arrives at the standard dichotomy residing within every person to pursue either easy and destructive or difficult and constructive solutions. Harrigan's influence and favored methods are a pathway to violence - gratifying but also shocking. The lessons are portrayed literally but learned metaphorically, the impact registering as a scary ability to impart negativity and cause mayhem. An escape route is available through memories of a kind mother and Craig accepting her death. 

With the cell phone's ease of access encouraging the rush to gratification, Mr. Harrigan's Phone packages ethical dilemmas into a tidy parable juiced by technology. 

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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