Mr. King fans will react instantly to the atmosphere writer-director John Lee Hancock creates at the outset of “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” a world of perpetual autumn and incipient unease, a white-clapboard Maine where the chill gets into the bones and the soul.
It will generate such a familiar sensation among fans of Mr. King’s fiction and its various adaptations that the effect may well be a Pavlovian dread.
Mr. King’s status as a master of horror, and of fiction generally, is unquestioned, but had he written “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” in the year in which it is set—2003—he’d be considered a prophet as well.
The casually eerie is standard-issue stuff for a King tale, as is the young hero who narrates his own story: Here, Craig (played as a child by Colin O’Brien and as a teen by Jaeden Martell is a young motherless boy when we first meet him who is enlisted after church one Sunday by the forbidding Mr. Harrigan (a pitch-perfect Donald Sutherland.
Indeed in 2003, the $5 a week he pays Craig is a pittance, but the boy is getting an education in literature, economics, and even politics.
Mr. Harrigan says“I had forgotten how much I despised that socialist claptrap,” cutting Craig off during his recitation of “The Jungle”; his employer, Craig learns during a primitive internet search at the local library, despised himself, as a corporate raider who dismantled companies and inspired suicides.
But when one of those tickets pays off, Craig presents Mr. Harrigan with an iPhone—which the man instinctively rejects, until Craig shows the retired millionaire investor how he can track the markets in real-time. His attitude changes. So does his regard for books.
Props to the pitch-perfect production design of Michael Corenblith, as well as Javier Navartrete’s effective, sometimes creepy score. Hancock The Blind Side is in total control of every beat of the story, as he has been in sadly underseen and underrated gems like The Founder, Saving Mr. Banks, and more recently a great Denzel Washington thriller The Little Things.
In addition to Blum and Murphy, this engrossing film was also produced by Carla Hacken. It begins streaming on Netflix on Wednesday.
Check out the video review above with scenes from the movie.