Developing Delusions: ONE HOUR PHOTO

One Hour Photo is a 2002 psychological thriller starring Robin Williams and directed by Mark Romanek. You may think this is really weird because generally Robin is mostly known for his comedy roles. A good number of those are also geared towards little kids but this film was a departure for him and actually really good.

The basic plot is that Robin Williams’ character Seymour “Sy” Parrish works at a photo development place and becomes obsessed with a particular family (I think this is a very interesting concept). This family has developed their pictures at this place for years and Sy has handled the photos of the birth of the children, sports matches, birthday parties and other noteworthy events. He genuinely feels as though he has gone through all these experiences with the family. He continuously tries to get closer to them but they understandably don’t share the same desire. He isn’t obsessed in the common psycho-thriller movie sense. He doesn’t want to kill them or do anything sexual, he just wants to be part of their family. He doesn’t even want to take the role of one of the significant family members, he just thinks of himself as a doting uncle.

So how does Robin Williams do in a horror/thriller type role? Fan-freaking-tastic! His performance is amazing. The screenplay, directing, cinematography; all very good, but they could still suck and his character Sy would carry the movie. Robin Williams really is a great actor. The man doesn’t get the credit he deserves sometimes. He plays Sy very subtly and makes it work perfectly and he has this very creepy smile. All of his emotions come off as extremely real.

There is a line of dialogue in the film where Sy says that he broke his collarbone falling out of a tree. I’m not sure if this was the intention or not but I got the impression that it wasn’t him but that he had seen someone fall out of a tree. There are also a lot of long takes with no dialogue and tense music. These shots work really well especially within the sets designed for this movie. Most of the backdrops are very bright and immaculate, almost sterile looking, including lots of stark blank white walls. All this adds to the major creep factor. The soundtrack is equally great made up of droning pulsating themes that continue to amplify.

In a particularly creepy scene Sy goes into the family’s house, and doesn’t do anything, he just lives there for a few hours. He eats their food, watches their TV, even wears their clothes. He almost seems like an obsessive fan towards one of their heroes. They could have easily made the movie about a fan of some movie/sports star who stalks them (see Tony Scott’s THE FAN), but instead it is just a normal family that this man has grown a strong attachment to.

Interestingly enough, for a movie about photo development there are an awful lot of bad shots. There are quite a few where the lighting is all off, and the picture is browned out and hard to see.

The movie isn’t very horrifying, it’s creepy though. Nobody dies and there isn’t really any blood except for one dream sequence, which is great. The horror comes from how realistic the situation is, and how easily possible it is for something like this to happen in real life.

Near the end of the movie Sy starts to do more extreme things. I actually feel like this took away a little bit of the creepiness, but the progression was well paced, so it still works. Very close to the end Robin Williams makes this face, which I swear is one of the creepiest expressions I’ve ever seen. You really believe that this guy is insane.

One Hour Photo is very underrated. I highly recommend checking it out. It’s worth it just to see Robin Williams go crazy…in a different way than usual!

Sam Kench

Sam Kench is a high school film fanatic who moonlights as an amateur filmmaker himself. Following in the footsteps of Martin McDonaugh, Darren Aronofsky, and Quentin Tarantino. Also has an aspiration for art and produces many drawings, paintings, and noire art revolving around movies and actors

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1 Response

  1. Peter Roberts says:

    Great review! I saw this film years back around when it hit DVD, I remember liking it and many of the thoughts you had was exactly how I felt about it. Robin has done alot of different and interesting films over the years from Moscow on The Hudson to Awakenings to The Fisher King, Patch Adams and another good thriller I liked Insomnia.

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