The reading chair

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone: Sorry, that’s a ‘dead’ line

Riley Riley

Let me just say I’m a huge Stephen King fan, have been for years — but TV and movies based on his books can be a bit hit and miss.

The movie Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is based on a short story of the same name from King’s collection If it Bleeds.

Written and directed by John Lee Hancock, it’s the story of a young boy who is befriended by an ageing, reclusive billionaire, John Harrigan, who asks his father if he can read to him three days a week as a way of earning pocket money.

Your’e thinking this doesn’t feel right. What’s the old bastard really want?

But Harrigan has no ulterior motives and the relationship continues for several years, until Craig (no last name) turns up one day and finds him dead in his chair.

But the story doesn’t stop there?

Set in 2003, a time when mobile phones have become a big thing and if you were a teenager, you just had to have one or become a social outcast.

After initially refusing him, Craig receives a phone from his father for Christmas.

After striking it lucky and winning some money with scratchy, he decides to buy a phone the same as his for Harrigan.

At first Harrigan doesn’t want a bar of it, but when Craig shows him he can get stock market reports on his phone the day before they are published in the newspaper — he’s in.

Harrigan takes on the online name “pirateking’ and the two start messaging.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone stars Donald Sutherland as Harrigan and Jaeden Martell as Craig, with Colin O’Brien as young Craig), Joe Tippett as Craig’s father and Kirby Howell-Baptiste as his teacher Ms. Hart.

Martell has also appeared in other films based on the works of King; as young Bill Denbrough in ‘It’ (2017) and ‘It: Chapter Two’ (2019).

When Harrigan eventually dies Craig is heartbroken. At the funeral, on the spur of the moment, he slips Harrigan’s phone into his coffin.

Craig is later informed by Harrigan’s lawyer that he has left him $800,000 in a trust to support his dreams of becoming a writer.

Remembering the phone, he messages his thanks.

And that’s where the story takes a sudden twist, a very Stephen King speciality.

King has the knack of of being able to build stories with complex characters and an eye for detail, then turning it all upside down.

The next morning, Craig discovers that he has a reply and a strange one at that.

King said he always wanted to write a story about somebody who got buried with a phone.

In the old days they used to attach a string to the big toe of dead people that was linked to a bell above ground, in case they woke to find themselves buried alive.

It gave rise to the expression, “Saved by the bell.”

LIfe goes on for Craig. He starts high school and even gets a girlfriend who he takes to the school dance.

At the same time, he attracts the eye of bully, Kenny Yankovich (Cyrus Arnold), who accuses Craig of getting him expelled for selling drugs.

When I first saw Arnold, I thought he could have been Stephen King’s son (he’s not is he?)

After receiving a beating from Kenny, Craig calls Harrigan’s phone in a fit of frustration and sadness.

He tells him he is “afraid that this won’t end, and I wish that you were here just to give me some advice.”

The next day Kenny is found dead, having apparently fallen from his bedroom window while attempting to sneak out.

In case you’re interested, the books Craig reads to Harrigan are: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” by Horace McCoy, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and A Tale of Two Cities, also by Dickens.

I wouldn’t describe Mr. Harrigan’s Phone as a great movie, but it’s more hit than miss and the story is intriguing.

King says: “There are movies that I absolutely love — and you probably know what they are — and there are movies that I don’t.

“But either way, the book remains. The book is the boss.”

You can catch Mr Harrigan’s Phone on Netflix.


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Time out score

Final thoughts . . .

More hit than miss.


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