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One Hour Photo (2002)

  Directed by: Mark Romanek
Written by: Mark Romanek
Starring: Connie Nielsen, Dylan Smith, Michael Vartan, Robin Williams
Links: One Hour Photo on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Suspense/Horror/Thriller

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

One Hour Photo (2002) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Insomnia (2002).

"Intense, but in a different way" - a review by andy-j

One Hour Photo is one of those movies that flies largely under the radar, and doesn't get the appreciation it really deserves for the amazing depth it offers and the approach it takes. I've seen it three times now, and it gets better each time I see it, as I begin to better understand and appreciate the characters and the subtleties of the story.

One Hour Photo is centred around Sy Parrish (Robin Williams), a lonely, empty and forgotten middle-aged man who works in a one hour photo minilab located within a massive shopping complex. Parrish is fixated on a couple, Will and Nina Yorkin, and their young son, Jake. The Yorkins are regular customers, and Sy has, creepily, been making copies of every roll of film Nina brings in for processing, and observing them through their photos. The Yorkins have everything that Parrish never had, and everything he never can have, which he finds immensely frustrating and saddening. Yet he is absolutely addicted to this family, and this bittersweet predicament is the only hope of happiness that exists for him. This movie tells the story of what happens when the few things that Sy has to hold onto start to slip away from him.

There are a few standout things that really separate One Hour Photo from any other thriller. The first is that Parrish is not a violent man. So instead of there being a focus on a knife-wielding unpredictable maniac, we instead see a man burning with suppressed emotion, and who is frozen from taking any action because he is intelligent enough to know that doing so would only push the Yorkins away. This leads to the second difference - we get to know Parrish in a way that allows us to, to a degree, feel for him. We understand that he is torturing himself, and that he is trapped in a situation where moving either way is going to cause him pain that he won't be able to deal with. It is unlike any other psychological thriller I've ever seen before. There is less emphasis on the plot and the victim's plight, and more focus on telling Sy's tragic story and analysing what makes him tick. One Hour Photo is also rich in imagery and themes - the more you watch, the more you'll discover. It doesn't give you all the answers, and instead leaves you wondering and allows you to draw your own conclusions.

Make no mistake about it - Robin Williams is extraordinary. I forget what an absolutely amazing actor he is, probably because his comedic talents are so overwhelming that you tend to forget his acting abilities at times. He fills Parrish with so much pain, sadness and emotion, and plays him with great understanding and sensitivity. Not many actors could do as well as Robin Williams has done here. The success of the film totally hinges on his portrayal of Parrish, and Williams doesn't let up for a second. You forget you're watching Robin Williams, and you really believe you are seeing Sy Parrish. Williams is supported by a very strong cast, of which there is not a single weak performance. Equally impressive to Williams is first-time writer and first-time director Mark Romanek. He has scripted an amazingly unique film, and equally impressive, directed it with the deftness and skill of someone who has been doing this a lot longer than he has. I'll definitely be following his future work.

I can see why some people would be bored by this. If you go into it thinking you're going to be put on edge, you will be disappointed. One Hour Photo is kinda tame in that respect, and in the respect of having an ending that wraps everything up neatly for you. If you don't think about where Sy Parrish is coming from, and if you miss one particular line of dialogue, you'll be underwhelmed and confused, which is probably what will happen to a lot of viewers. Hence, you probably won't be in too much of a hurry to see this again. If, however, you can watch this without any expectations, you'll find a film that is gripping not for its heart-racing thrills, but for its intense portrayal of a very interesting character.

andy-j gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 5 Dec 2005

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Reader comments

  1. I saw One Hour Photo and Donnie Darko at MIFF in 2002. I thought the first film was better and not as overrated. It also contains the famous line "fucking Agfa!", which is agreed with by at least one person who used to work in a photo lab.

    A comment from nofreelist's own timchuma on Mon 05 Dec 2005 21:11 #

  2. very good review. i agree completely.

    A comment from dooff on Wed 21 Dec 2005 16:54 #


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