One Hour Photo


Directed by: Mark Romanek
Written by:Mark Romanek
Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Dylan Smith, Eriq La Salle
Released: January 30, 2003
Grade: A-

Simply put, it’s a smidge of plausibility that gives One Hour Photo a very sharp edge.  In taking our film to a photo development centre for processing, we hope the staff don’t snoop through our personal images (especially if they’re a little rude).  I’ve even heard true stories of developers taking copies of pornographic photos for their own personal use.

Well if think that’s creepy, check out Robin Williams.  He is Sy Parrish and for 11 years has been the department manager of the photo development section at the Sav-Mart shopping complex.  Living alone with no wife or kids, Sy’s demeanor is placid and inconspicuous.  He’s the last person you’d expect of anything remotely wrong.

But there’s a lot more to Sy than anyone knows.  As regular customers during his entire service, Nina Yorkin (Nielsen) has always brought her family’s prized images to Sy to developing.  Nina is happily married to Will (Vartan) and they have a nine-year-old son, Jake (Smith).  To Sy, they are the perfect American family.

Over time, his fascination has become a very bizarre obsession.  He keeps copies of their pictures to hang on his walls and put in his photo frames.  He fantasises about being part of the family.  He’s now started stalking them by following them around town and watching them in their home from across the street.  His increasing closeness to the family is about to reach boiling point when two events flip his warped world upside down.  A meeting with his boss and a reel from a new customer will force Sy to take action to keep his dream alive...

Such an original film can only come from a first-time director who is yet to be corrupted by Hollywood dollars.  Mark Romanek’s film was debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and had it’s first screening outside the United States at this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival.  The bland colours and slow, simple dialogue simple give the film a low-budget art-house feel but it’s the perfect setting to add an element of unpredictability to Sy and his fate.

Robin Williams is almost unrecognisable.  With bleached hair, glasses and considerable make-up, he is not called upon for his usual overexhuberant comedy.  His character is docile and a complete departure from any role Williams has tackled before.  Assisted by his character’s gradual development through the screenplay, Williams keeps us guessing to the very end (and beyond).

Maintaining the intrigue of the build up, the conclusion does offer a slightly unexpected twist.  However, the resolution of Sy’s character seemed insignificant and the lack of clarity did take the gloss off this final print.  More was expected.  Incidentally, the music score from Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek is great and perfectly in tune with the eeriness of the story.

Make sure you allow a little more than an hour to see this film develop.