One Hour Photo (2002)

One Hour Photo (2002)
  • Time: 96 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Mark Romanek
  • Cast: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan


Seymour ‘SY’ Parrish has been doing photo development for 20 years. He has a vast knowledge of modern photography and develops photos at a local department store for a living. But SY lives a sad and lonely life and begins spying on the Yorkin family, his biggest customers who seem to have everything in the world. SY begins to feel that he wants to be in the Yorkin’s life, but when he discovers that the Yorkins are not as perfect as they seem, he becomes a man on a mission to expose the imperfections of the Yorkin family that could tear them apart.

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  • Even though digital cameras are becoming less and less common, that doesn’t mean One Hour Photo has become any less suspenseful or any less impressive. It serves as probably my favorite Robin Williams film, and proof that many comedic actors can take on a dramatic role effectively. The problem is, many don’t take the opportunity when it comes.

    Robin Williams plays Seymour “Sy” Parrish, a photo-developer at a corporate giant known as SavMart. Despite Sy’s soft-spoken, and generally harmless aging man appearance, he is actually a very depressed man who obsesses over the seemingly perfect family of the Yorkins. The Yorkins are the typical American family; a husband, a wife, and a young boy. Sy has been developing the Yorkin family photos for years, and is assuming the role of “Uncle Sy” in the Yorkin family.

    He does this, of course, because he does not have a family of his own. He lives alone in an apartment with a collage of photos of the Yorkins. All the pictures are plastered to the wall in order and neatness, leaving no gaps or overlaps. He begins to stalk the family after a certain period of time, and from that moment on, Sy isn’t so harmless anymore – but actually mentally ill and in dire need of psychological help.

    Robin Williams jumps right into the role of Sy Parrish. He’s creepy, stylish, believable, and scary. From the guy who has done things like Jumanji and other nonsensical films, here comes something you’d never see from a man who played a sailor who loved spinach at one point in his life.

    But the true talent here is director Mark Romanek, who has worked on many music videos for Nine Inch Nails, R.E.M., and Weezer. Romanek stayed true to the story of the film, revealing more and more informations about Sy and his intentions for the story that he made subtly on purpose. He gives descriptive backstory on why Sy is the way he is at the end, but you may have to do research to piece together everything. While Romanek explained a lot, you still have to come up with your own explanation for the ending. And my view on it is something I dare not give away because I feel it’s one of the most mind-boggling, yet, thought-provoking endings in recent memory.

    During the course of the film, Sy narrates over it, which is nothing but fantastic. His narrations are very relaxed, in a quiet tone for much of the time. And scenes where he explains his customers and what pictures they take is extra information you wouldn’t think a film like One Hour Photo would contain. Even graphic insight and personal opinions on cameras and pictures are given here. The film goes outside of its plot boundaries to deliver explicit detail to the audience. I can’t thank Romanek enough for giving this an extra dimension to work with.

    I found this a tiny bit relatable to the film LOOK, which was made about seven years after this. LOOK was directed by Adam Rifkin, a relatively unsung director who shot the entire film with security cameras giving authentic depth and feel to it, while following not-so-innocent people around and connecting them in an anthology-like format. Both this and that show people that we could be being watched and not even know it. That’s the power these films bring. And you only get more skeptical every time you watch them.

    One Hour Photo, even with repeated viewings, is disturbing, and visually interesting. It’s creepy to think about Sy’s actions, but it’s even creepier thinking that back when film was developed constantly, and places like Walgreens and Wal-Mart’s “One Hour Photo” booths used to be filled with customers, how easy it was to obtain one person’s pictures. It’s amazing to think just five or six years ago we used to be protective with our pictures, count on them being done in one hour, and then only be shown to a certain number of people. When now, we upload pictures to our computers and then make them so the whole world can see. My, how times have changed.

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