The Film Mr. Harrigan’s Phone: Decryption Of SMS Messages And Other Clues. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022): The Meaning Of The Movie, The Ending, Plot Explanation.
Genre: drama, mystery
Year of production: 2022
Director: John Lee Hancock
Actors: Jaden Martell, Donald Sutherland, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Joe Tipette
tagline: “Some connections are never broken”
The meaning of the film Mr. Harrigan’s Phone does not pretend to be very deep. The main value of this story of the hero’s growing up, perhaps, is in the atmosphere, skillfully built by the director, and the dramatic component. However, the painting contains several interesting ideas, mysteries and references.
What is the movie about?
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone opens with a quote from Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband: “When the gods are about to punish us, they answer our prayers.” The protagonist, schoolboy Craig, who has lost his mother and lives with his father, meets the richest man in Maine, the elderly Mr. Harrigan. He once heard the boy read a passage from the Bible (David’s Lament for Saul) in church, and decides to take him to work. It consisted of Craig coming to the old man’s house and reading books aloud to him, because Mr. Harrigan himself saw worse.
Jaden Martell played the role of Craig. Frame from the film.
A friendship gradually develops between them, albeit a rather strange one: the elderly billionaire does not show much kindness (he has, in principle, a reputation as a harsh and merciless businessman to his enemies), but from time to time both trust each other with thoughts that they do not share with anyone else.
We find out what kind of works Mr. Harrigan likes. This is “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by David Lawrence, “Dombey and Son” by Charles Dickens, “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, “Driven horses are shot, aren’t they?” Horace McCoy.
Craig’s father, surprised by the friendship between the boy and the old man, once jokingly said: if my mother had found out about this, she would have turned over in her grave. In response to his son’s question about what this expression means, he replied: “Well … It means that the dead should not worry about the affairs of the living.”
As a teenager, the hero moves to high school. There, a guy named Kenny starts bullying him. Once, getting in the way of Craig, he tried to force him to shine his shoes.
While reading one of the books (“The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair): Mr. Harrigan exclaims: “Craig, Craig, Craig!”. He asks to stop and stop reading this “socialist nonsense”, adding that he respects work, but to get what you want, you need to be able to be ruthless.
Craig receives an iPhone as a Christmas present from his father, and thanks to this, he is given the opportunity to enter the “high society” – among the most popular and wealthy teenagers in school. Another gift, already traditional – from Mr. Harrigan, was a lottery, in which the guy this time won a lot of money: three thousand dollars.
Once Mr. Harrigan asked Craig a question: why does he come to him. To this the hero replies: “Because I like the smell of books. Because I feel a power that I don’t feel anywhere else. Because I want to.
Craig spends part of the money won in the lottery on an iPhone and gives it to Mr. Harrigan. He first quotes the writer and philosopher Henry Thoreau: “We do not own things, but things we own” and rejects the gift. However, having become acquainted with the capabilities of a smartphone (reading the news of the financial world, instantly tracking exchange rates and stock prices, mobile telephony, searching for any information), Mr. Harrigan still accepts it. However, later the old man realizes all the potential danger of this invention, calling the information “pouring out of it in all directions” the first dose of the drug for humanity.
The last book Craig reads for Mr. Harrigan is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. True, he skips part of the story, because at this point he is absorbed by the smartphone. After that, Craig asks the question: “Why do you live here?”, To which the old man replies: “I wanted to live where they don’t ask me for anything. After all, I almost always respond. At the end of the conversation, Mr. Harrigan takes a promise from the teenager that when he has enemies in a big city in his adult life, he will get rid of them quickly and will not feel guilty about it.
Soon Mr. Harrigan dies. The hero finds his corpse during the next visit to the rich man’s mansion. The old man’s finger froze over the smartphone – before his death, he wanted to call his only friend, who was Craig (literally before that, the teenager reasoned that Mr. Harrigan obviously had few friends). Saying goodbye, sitting in front of a corpse, the hero reads “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.
Upon returning home, Craig discovers that he forgot to leave the old man’s phone at the mansion. Yearning, the hero writes from his phone to Mr. Harrigan’s Phone: “I will miss our meetings.”
At the funeral service, Craig reads a Bible passage about the need to forgive each other the way God does. Left alone in the church, the teenager hides Mr. Harrigan’s Phone in his coffin, in his jacket.
After the funeral, it turns out that two months before his death, the old man included Craig in his will and he became the owner of eight hundred thousand dollars. He can use it to go to college, graduate school, and start the screenwriting career he’s dreamed of. The content of the farewell letter, written at the same time, ends with words that are very similar to the answer to Craig’s last SMS message: “I, too, will miss our meetings.”
In the evening, the hero calls Mr. Harrigan’s Phone and hears the answering machine. Craig says he appreciates the money, but would give anything to get a friend back. In the morning, he sees an SMS message that came from Mr. Harrigan’s Phone at night with the text “CCS aa”. The teenager begins to think that his friend was buried alive, but his father upsets him: this cannot be, because the old man was opened before being buried.
Craig visits a friend’s grave, dials his number and hears a ringing melody from under the ground. A teenager comes to Harrigan’s mansion and communicates with his housekeeper. He asks if the old man was a good person, to which the woman replies: he was fair, but it was better for him not to cross the road. At the same time, she recalls the gardener Dusty Belado, who worked for Mr. Harrigan. It turns out that once he robbed his employer and paid for it. However, the woman does not disclose details.
Kenny, who has been expelled from school for selling drugs, brutally beats Craig, thinking he turned him in. Craig calls Mr. Harrigan’s number and recounts the incident, sharing his resentment and fear that the bully will beat him up again.
The next day, the hero learns that Kenny has died. It turns out that the bully jumped out of the window and broke his neck in the fall. Moreover, his corpse was in the same position as Craig’s body after the beating. Next to the corpse lay a jar of the same shoe polish that Kenny wanted to force to clean his shoes. He had some of that cream in his mouth, as if he was trying to eat it.
Craig, talking with his teacher Miss Hart, with whom he had recently become friends, asked if she believed in ghosts. She said that she would not call them, because “you should not ask if you do not want to know the answer” and “not all holy spirits.”
Craig visits Dusty Belodo’s house. It turns out that he committed suicide a year after being fired and his failed quest for a livelihood by locking himself in the garage and choking on the gas. Before he died, he wrote on the gate: “FUH”. Craig also found in the car among Belodo’s belongings the same lottery ticket that he received from Mr. Harrigan for the holidays.
Donald Sutherland as Old Man Harrigan. Frame from the film.
Craig calls Mr. Harrigan’s Phone again and says he didn’t want Kenny dead. He also asks the deceased old man to knock on the wall if he is somehow connected with this. There was no knock, but Harrigan’s number rings for a short time, and then a message arrives with the text “aa. CCC x”.
Craig goes to the church and tells the priest everything. He does not believe in the supernatural version of what happened and quotes the Bible. The passage deals with the need to resist temptation.
The hero goes to the store to buy a new smartphone. The salesperson says the incoming messages to the old iPhone from Mr. Harrigan’s Phone are probably a bug, which he calls a “ghost in the device.” Craig completes the sentence: “… a spirit, but not a saint.”
Craig goes to college. Saying goodbye to his father and leaving home for Boston, the guy sees the reflection of his mother next to his reflection.
The hero lives a new life. But somehow his father tells him about the death of the teacher Miss Hart. She was the victim of an accident, in which Dean Whitmore got off with a symbolic punishment. Then Craig calls Mr. Harrigan’s Phone again and asks to punish the killer for real, immediately regretting what he did. After some time, news about the suicide of Dean Whitmore appears on the Internet. Craig learns the details: Whitmore put a bar of soap in his mouth, the same brand that Miss Hart liked, and wrote dying lines that are the text of Mr. Harrigan’s favorite song.
Craig remembers looking into the old man’s closet before he died. There were items that held memories of his life. According to them, the guy realized that Harrigan also lost his mother in childhood and was always just like him, lonely. This is probably what brought them closer.
Frame from the film.
Craig sees the third message from Mr. Harrigan’s Phone: “CCS sT.” He deciphers it this way: “Craig, stop!”. The guy goes to the grave of the deceased and asks him for forgiveness for the pain caused after death (although he expresses doubts: maybe the old man asked to stop, because it hurts not him, but Craig himself), and then asks for forgiveness from his mother.
At the end, the hero throws away the iPhone with Mr. Harrigan’s contact, but leaves a new smartphone. The film ends with Craig’s words: “When I die, they will bury me with empty pockets.”
Let’s answer a few questions that probably remained unclear after watching Mr. Harrigan’s Phone:
Did Mr. Harrigan have supernatural powers while he was alive? Most likely not. The suicides of the billionaire’s enemies were clearly not without his participation, but, obviously, indirectly. We know the details of the death of only one of Harrigan’s former employees – Dusty Belodo. Inside the car, where he suffocated, there was a lottery ticket that the old man liked to buy and send to friends for the holidays. What does it say? Perhaps Harrigan regularly sent them to Belodo and they always turned out to be unwinnable, which was perceived as a mockery. Or maybe the dismissed person bought them himself, in desperation trying to find a livelihood. In addition, Dusty could not get a job for a year. It is possible that Harrigan helped in getting the former gardener a wolf ticket. In Stephen King’s original story,
And the fact that two months before his death, Harrigan wrote a “reply” to Craig’s SMS message, may be a coincidence. In general, there is nothing supernatural in such foresight of the thoughts of friends.
What do the letters on Dusty Belodo’s fence “FUH” mean? It’s almost certainly “Fuck you, Harrigan” – “Fuck you, Harrigan.” Judging by Craig’s reaction, he understood the meaning of this inscription: Belodo blamed the old man for his misfortunes. Who became Mr. Harrigan after death? Probably with the same “unholy” spirit. Judging by his desire to remain in seclusion during his lifetime and not be able to fulfill anyone’s requests, he wanted the same after death. But just as in life, he could not refuse help, especially to his friend. Did the spirit of Mr. Harrigan really cause the deaths of Kenny and Dean Whitmore? Yes. The description of the death of both leaves no chance for another explanation. What is the hidden meaning of the messages “CCS aa”, “aa. CCC x”, “CCC st”? The clue is found in the finale by the protagonist: this is Mr. Harrigan’s request to stop disturbing him,
“CCS” is “Creig! Creig! Creig!”, that is, the protagonist’s name spoken three times. These are the words Mr. Harrigan said to him in the episode after reading “The Jungle” by Sinclair, expressing his annoyance.
“aa” is an interjection. “Aahhh” is also an expression of annoyance or pain.
“x” is a request to stop, literally: put an end to further “communication”. True, Stephen King thinks otherwise (he published a post with analysis on the Twitter social network). In his opinion, “x” is like a kiss sign in correspondence – a kind of “I love you.” However, in the story itself, there was no such symbol among the messages from the deceased. So these are just the guesses of the writer, who is not directly related to the creation of the script for “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, which, by the way, he himself emphasizes.
“sT” is an abbreviation for “stop!” – “stop!”.
What role does Kenny’s mother play in all of this? In fact, Craig’s guilt over the death of his mother and his conviction in managing this event and the possibility of preventing it (this is experienced by many children who find themselves in such a situation) served as a kind of trigger for appropriate actions after the death of Mr. Harrigan. In fact, the hero reproduced his injury two more times. First, he created a situation of indirectly controlling the deaths of Kenny and Dean Whitmore through his calls to Mr. Harrigan’s Phone. Secondly, he felt guilty after their death.
The meaning of the film Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
In the film, much attention is paid to quotations from the Bible and various works of art. Most of the former are related to forgiveness (and one is about resisting temptation and is given in the context of the use of modern technologies). The cited works of art are connected in one way or another with the division of people into classes (it is interesting that this theme is also reflected in school life in the form of the division of adolescents according to belonging to “clubs”) and with the power that representatives of one class have over another. And the last novel that Craig reads to Mr. Harrigan before his death, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, raises the question of choosing between those in power and ordinary people: “Am I a trembling creature, or do I have a right?”
The old billionaire made his choice a long time ago and no longer feels pangs of conscience. A teenager is just entering adulthood and is at a crossroads. In the end, he still chooses the path of repentance and forgiveness, like the main character of the novel, Raskolnikov.
Another theme that is emphasized is the theme of the dead and the living. The film repeatedly emphasizes that the former should not interfere in the affairs of the latter. This clearly does not want the spirit of Mr. Harrigan. It’s not just his messages. Note that even the phrase recorded for the answering machine meant one thing: “do not disturb me” – this detail is also given special attention in the film. Apparently, the old man during his lifetime would have been irritated by the same requests of Craig, although, perhaps, he would have fulfilled them.
Frame from the film.
Finally, the third important theme of the film is the terrible danger posed by high technology. Keeping in mind the meaning of the very first quote from “An Ideal Husband” by Oscar Wilde, we can say this: they fulfill our desires and thereby punish us. We become hostages of the powerful Internet, it absorbs our lives (an interesting detail: even with his girlfriend, the main character communicates only through a smartphone) Both Craig and Mr. Harrigan become addicted to gadgets. After the death of a billionaire, communication brings pain to both, but both continue to keep in touch: one sends requests, the other fulfills them.
In general, the meaning of the picture can be formulated as follows: you need to value friendship, but choose your own path, according to your conscience. The following interpretation is also possible: power is both pleasure and a heavy burden, dependence; think about it, do you need it?
Ending explanation Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
The hero chooses the path of repentance and forgiveness. He gets rid of the means of communication with the spirit of Mr. Harrigan, but keeps a regular smartphone. If we compare “teenager – old man” and “humanity – high technology”, the explanation of the ending will be as follows. The latest inventions can take us so far that we can no longer get out. We still have free will and the right to choose, but we are no longer able to give up what we have.
Despite the above, the picture is still more focused on human relationships and not too heavy atmosphere. She does not press her morality. So the meaning of the ending of the film “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, as well as the essence of the film as a whole, everyone can interpret in their own way. Or you can ignore it and just enjoy another interesting story from Stephen King.
Frame from the film.
- Apt Pupil (USA, Canada, France): a student makes friends with a former Nazi – another adaptation of Stephen King;
- The Black Phone (USA, 2021): a teenager kidnapped by a maniac communicates with dead peers on a broken phone – a film adaptation of the story of Stephen King’s son Joe Hill;
- White Noise (UK, USA, Canada, 2004): the hero receives messages from his dead wife through radio interference – horrors about the danger of contacts between the living and the dead.