Netflix’s ‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ follows the story of a young boy who gets entangled in a sinister turn of events following his encounter with an old man. The film is heartwarming and terrifying at the same time. It uses grief as a device to explore the nature of its characters, making the audience think about what they would do if they were in the shoes of the protagonist. Based on the Stephen King story of the same name, the film builds a tense atmosphere keeping the audience guessing about the supernatural nature of events till the end. Eventually, the truth comes to light and the boy’s inherent nature is tested. Here’s what the ending means for him. SPOILERS AHEAD
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone Plot Synopsis
Craig lives with his father in a small town where everyone knows everyone. He’d lost his mother a couple of years back, and both the boy and his father found it difficult to cope with their loss. One day, Craig receives an offer from a local billionaire, Mr. Harrigan. He has grown very old, and his eyesight is failing. He wants Craig to come to his house three times a week for one hour and read a book to him. At first, Craig is scared of Mr. Harrigan, but as time passes, the two become fond of each other.
Five years later, Craig still continues with his habit of reading to Mr. Harrigan, though now that he is a teenager and has moved to a new school, he meets new challenges. Having a phone is a big deal in his school and to get close to a girl that he likes, Craig asks his father to buy him a phone. Later, Craig buys a phone for Mr. Harrigan as well, and even though the reclusive man is hesitant to bring new technology into his household, he eventually accepts that there are many advantages to it. A few months later, Mr. Harrigan dies, and Craig sneaks the phone into his pocket. The old man is buried with his phone. Trouble begins when Craig sends a message to Mr. Harrigan and receives an answer.
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone Ending: What Did Mr. Harrigan’s Texts Mean?
Finding Mr. Harrigan’s dead body had already been a traumatic event for Craig, especially considering that he still hadn’t made peace with his mother’s death. When he leaves the phone in Mr. Harrigan’s pocket, it is for sentimental reasons. This was the only gift that Craig had given to him and he wanted the man to have it. It was also his only means to stay in touch with the man he’d grown to care for. He’d always kept his father at a distance when it came to talking about his feelings, but it was different with Mr. Harrigan. Craig felt that he could share anything with him, and he didn’t want to let go of it even after his death.
The first message Craig receives from Mr. Harrigan is in the letter he leaves for him. The previous night, Craig had texted him, saying he’ll miss their afternoons together. It was his way to say goodbye. But the next day, he receives Mr. Harrigan’s letter which was written two months before his death. At the end of the letter, Mr. Harrigan had written that he will miss their afternoons together too. While this creeps out Craig, he explains it away as a coincidence. They had known each other for five years, and it was not a surprise that Harrigan would end the letter the same way that Craig would write his final goodbye.
Things really take a turn for the worse when Craig receives texts from Mr. Harrigan. This is clearly not a coincidence because, for one, the phone is in Mr. Harrigan’s coffin and no one knows about it. Second, even if someone had it and they wanted to mess around, why would they write something that doesn’t mean anything? By the end of the film, there are only three texts that Craig receives from the dead man. The first time he receives it is when he sends him the first voicemail, thanking him for the money, and gets back “CCC aa”. This could be Mr. Harrigan telling Craig to “ask anything”, something that he’d said when Craig had asked him about the secret closet. The second text he receives is after the death of Kenny Yankovic, and it reads “aa CCC x”. This feels vaguer, but it could probably be “ask anything Craig.” The “x” at the end could mean hugs and kisses, like “xo xo”. However, it feels out of character for Mr. Harrigan, and this might be his way of saying that he is looking out for Craig.
The last text he receives is after he asks Mr. Harrigan to kill Deane Whitmore. It reads “CCC s T”. This feels very random, and like the other texts, we don’t get a conclusive explanation for this. In the end, Craig tries to make sense of it, thinking about the advice that Mr. Harrigan would give him. He feels utterly devastated at being responsible for the death of two people, something that wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t called out to Mr. Harrigan. He hasn’t told anyone about these texts. Mr. Harrigan is the only person he could have talked about it to. But the old man is not there, and the only thing that he has told Craig is in those cryptic texts. To tell himself that Mr. Harriagn would have wanted him to stop, Craig comes up with the explanation for the final texts. He decodes “s T” as stop, and that’s enough for him to stop and throw away the phone, which is what Mr. Harriagn had suggested initially when Craig introduced him to an iPhone for the first time.
Considering the situation, it is fair to say that it doesn’t really matter what the texts mean and what Mr. Harrigan’s ghost had been trying to tell Craig. It was on him to interpret the meaning, and he could have taken it to mean anything. The words were too random to make sense of. What matters is that Craig wanted to stop, and he wanted someone to tell him so. Above all, he wanted Mr. Harrigan to tell him so, and that’s why he interprets the message as a sign from him to stop, once and for all.
Why did Mr. Harrigan Choose Craig?
Craig’s life had been very normal and rather uneventful before he met Mr. Harrigan. For five years, he spent three days a week reading books to the old man. Following his death, some very disturbing things happened to him, ones that would make him think about who he really is. All along this, there is one thing that Craig can’t get out of his mind. Why did Mr. Harrigan choose him? The reclusive billionaire was known to be unwelcoming to people. He lived alone and was extremely unsocial. When he needed someone to read to him, he could have picked any random kid. Craig admits that there were better readers than him, which means that his reading skills were not the real reason behind Mr. Harrigan’s decision to hire him. In the end, Craig discovers that he was right.
There was a secret closet in the hall where Craig and Mr. Harrigan would sit down for their sessions. Craig tried to find out what was in the closet, and Mr. Harrigan told him there were “secrets” in it. Craig doesn’t get a chance to open the closet until after Mr. Harrigan’s death. It turns out that the secrets that Mr. Harrigan talked about were the memories of his past. Craig finds the photos of Mr. Harrigan’s childhood and his parents. He discovers that his mother had died when he was very young.
When Mr. Harrigan found out that Craig was also suffering similar grief, he could relate to the boy’s situation. He knew what it was like and how lonely it could feel for someone to lose a parent at such a young age. He knew that Craig needed a reason to get out of the house and do something that would take his mind off of things. He needed someone to help him through his grief, and as good as his father was, Craig would probably not talk to him about his feelings. Craig needed a friend, and that’s why Mr. Harrigan chose him. The old man was also at a point in his life where he’d started to feel lonely. Because he’d always kept people at bay. He never got too close to anyone. He didn’t have any friends who cared for him, something that becomes evident at his funeral. So, it wasn’t just to help Craig but also for himself that Mr. Harrigan offered him the job of visiting him three times a week to read books to him.
Does Craig Keep His Phone or Does He Throw It Away?
On the surface, it might look like ‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ is the story of a boy being haunted by an old man. However, a deeper look into it reveals that the story is actually about a person’s choice. Power is a tricky thing. It can be used to do good in the world, but it can also be used to wreak havoc. It is also difficult to know how a particular person would react once they have unimaginable power in their hand. His entire life, Mr. Harrigan had the power to change people’s life. While he was good to those who were good to him, he was cruel and unforgiving to those who would cross him. This was how he used his power, and this is what defined his character.
After his death, Craig chances upon the power to do what he’d promised to Mr. Harrigan. He’d said that he would “dispatch his enemies”. At the time, Craig didn’t fully grasp the idea of “dispatching” people. He takes it to mean fighting back, which is what he does when Kenny attacks him. However, no matter how much he hated Kenny, he didn’t want him to die. Once he realizes that he might be the reason behind his classmate’s death, he is so terrified that he stashes away the phone. But then, his favorite teacher, Ms. Hart dies and her killer walks away scot-free. This angers Craig so much that he intentionally sets Mr. Harrigan upon him. Even now, he is not sure that it would work but when he discovers exactly how Deane Whitmore died, he knows that this is, without a doubt, his fault.
Craig is disturbed by his own thoughts. Wanting justice and wanting someone dead are two very different things, and it doesn’t take him a lot to realize that he is going over to the dark side. Another thing that eats at him is how, due to his own actions, he has also tainted Mr. Harrigan’s memory. He revered the old man, but in making his ghost do his dirty work, he turns him into something malevolent. He never wanted this for himself and for Mr. Harrigan. So, in the end, he throws away the phone with which he’d been contacting Mr. Harrigan. He thinks about throwing away his new phone too, but Mr. Harrigan can’t be reached through it, so it is not as dangerous.
He also learns that the point is not to do away with things that could prove useful, which could make you powerful. The point is not to use those things to commit bad deeds. That’s why he keeps his new phone and moves on from Mr. Harrigan, hoping that he’ll finally be at peace and not turn over in his grave because Craig is holding on to him.