Mr. Harringan’s Phone on Netflix

This film was . . . somewhere between okay and decent. Its source material is a Stephen King short story and it seems like the director and producers tried to expand it as much as possible. Quite honestly, there is not much to say about this film. If not for the fact that Stephen King was the source material, I’m sure reviewers would have called it unremarkable. Nevertheless, I think it is a fairly decent story about a young boy who grows-up into a young adult that is unable to process grief in a healthy manner. He doesn’t do drugs or any criminal activity, he just comes-up with a superstitious idea to process his grief. An ordinary, but interesting enough concept to pursue in a story. The following will be my interpretation of this story.

Essentially, nothing supernatural had happened and it was all in his head. If you carefully pay attention to the dialogue, it becomes obvious that his fear and paranoia is unfounded and based on a deep-seeded and irrational guilt over his mother’s loss. In the early part of the film during his childhood years, he imagines that he could bring his mother back because he didn’t know how to process his mother’s death as a young child and his father failed him by only going quiet about it without any regard for how he was handling it. When he saw Mr. Harringan, who had become like an ambiguous uncle / friend figure to him, dead in his chair during a routine meeting to read to him, his irrational guilt and sense of uncontrollable loss over his mother’s death came rushing back to him. He wanted to believe that his mother could come back, because he had trouble processing even up to his adult years that she was truly gone. Note that he sees her “ghost” and visually imagines her there, because he deeply wished that his mother was able to see him leave for college. He wanted to believe that he could talk to Mr. Harringan again, so he imagined and interpreted the randomly generated code of errors as messages from beyond the grave by his late friend. Note that the iPhone salesman even says the early models of the phone that Mr. Harringan was given had issues of error messages from contacts. His irrationality led to his fear and panic that he was somehow killing people, even though the paranoia and guilt over the supposed “murders” was just his unfounded and irrational guilt over losing loved ones or people he knew. Just as he imagined that he could bring his mother back, he imagined that he could control people’s deaths because he didn’t know how to process the uncontrollable loss in a healthy way. The bully really did just fall to his death because he was drunk, the ex-employee really did just kill himself, and the drunk driver really did just commit suicide for completely unrelated reasons. He just made himself believe that he had a special, magic medium to contact his late friend to cause those deaths in order to make himself believe that all the deaths around him weren’t uncontrollable. The case of the drunk driver killing his favorite schoolteacher may have some believe that Mr. Harringan was working from beyond the grave. One might argue the scene revealing the message of the soap and song lyrics as evidence; unfortunately, if you carefully examine the conversation, it doesn’t actually reveal anything. The scene itself is rather pathetic when you realize that he’s imagining it all. He was just swindled $200 from some guy who saw him as an easy mark to make a quick buck. Take note of how the scene actually played out. The man that he hires for information mentions some popular soap brand being found by the drunk driver that the hired informant has trouble saying the name of, but doesn’t mention what it is. The main character, Craig, then “concludes” that it is the soap that his favorite schoolteacher told him about as if it is “proof” that Mr. Harringan did it from beyond the grave. The suicide note with the popular song lyrics from Mr. Harringan’s favorite song was established to be a well-known and popular song among the small-town in the 1980s when Harringan mentioned it in the early part of the film. A suicide note quoting a popular song beloved by possibly tens of millions is not evidence. Ah, but what if that argument isn’t convincing? There’s another aspect to all of this that cinches that it is all in his head: Mr. Harringan never knew about the schoolteacher having a specific soap product that they prefer to use. Not only have the two people never met, but Craig never mentioned that detail about his schoolteacher to anyone. Thus, the “confirmation” in Craig’s mind . . . really is all in his head and not evidence that Mr. Harringan’s spirit is haunting the small-town to cause deaths.

The final scene concludes the only aspect that has really been going on; he cries in front of his mother’s grave and says he’s sorry. He thinks he’s apologizing for being complicit in paranormal murder, when really it is his unhealthy and irrational guilt over his mother’s passing which was beyond his control. At the end of the film, after nearly considering suicide before crying over his mother’s grave, he has a slightly better mindset chalking up what is in actuality an irrational sense of survivor’s guilt into rationalizations about never contacting the supernatural again.

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