ONE HOUR PHOTO
Sy (Robin Williams) is the fastidious one hour photo man at the Savmart where Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen) has always taken her young family’s snaps to be developed. To Sy, the Yorkins – mum, young Jake (Dylan Smith) and his dad Will (Michael Vartan) - are the perfect happy family . . . and the total antithesis of his. Sy is in fact a loner with a deep seated problem that becomes an obsession fed by the Yorkins and when he develops photos that threaten the happy marriage, Sy becomes a powderkeg waiting to explode. And he doesn’t wait long.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One Hour Photo has the distinction of falling down exactly where it should soar. Detail. In a story so reliant on detail as the engine for character action, it’s frustrating and annoying to see the film spiral down the gurgler because of a few (but crucial) lapses of attention to detail. I don’t want to spoil things for you should you want to see it – and there is much about it that works - but can you imagine a large modern hotel these days without a phone system that has room recognition at the switchboard? Is a bright, well kept car’s rear view mirror angled so back seat passengers see what the driver should see? And worst of all, because it unhinges the whole plot, where do ordinary snaps of illicit, secret lovers come from? Who took them? Undermined by these gaping holes, the film’s better attributes only serve to frustrate us. Robin Williams is sickeningly suitable for the role, his wardrobe is perfectly grey, obsessive and plastic, and the rest of the cast deliver everything required. The Savmart is a tad too tidy and clean for the naturalism that inhabits the rest of the film, but the same can be said of the Yorkin home. It isn’t really creepy because we see too much of the working parts, and the characters are not much more than symbols or stick men. The payoff that explains the motivation for the dramatic development is welcome and well executed, but doesn’t save the picture from mediocrity. And the closing shot of a happy family – which includes Sy – kills off any chance of resonance; the previous shot at least has cinematic power.
Review by Louise Keller:
One Hour Photo is a truly chilling film. I saw it at night and on my own – a most satisfying way to see it. In fact I found it more genuinely frightening than many thrillers, because its premise is so simple and touches on a notion that we can all relate to. Photographs represent the milestones of our lives, and include those precious moments that we want to lock into our memories forever. It may be simplistic to say that it’s only the happy moments that are recorded through the lens, but we don’t intentionally photograph the things we want to forget. And it’s true that photos alone paint a less-than-realistic rosy picture of our lives. In any event, how much we want to reveal of our lives to a perfect stranger, is quite another matter. Especially those private and often intimate moments stored in precious photo albums. With its outstanding minimalist production design and dischorded edgy score, One Hour Photo grapples with obsessive loneliness and fear, when the borders between reality and fantasy blur. This is a story about a man who has no life of his own, but lives his life through other people’s lives. There’s the woman who only photographs her cats, and the insurance assessor with photos of dented cars. The new parents, the amateur porn photographer… we get a glimpse of all their lives. But Sy’s total obsession is with the perfect happy family, and very early in the film, we see the fine line between caring service and nosey intrusion being crossed. At home, he cuts a lonely figure sitting in an armchair watching The Simpsons on tv. This (and the wall of photos) is as close as he gets to having a family. When the illusion of the happy family is shattered, like the broken windscreen of his car, Sy snaps. Robin William is absolutely haunting as Sy. It’s a wonderfully subtle performance, where the tense, thin-lipped smile and nervous flickering of the eyes act as indicators to a character who doesn’t have anywhere to go. He is always alone – even in a crowd, and the scenes when Sy walks down the supermarket aisles amid all the packets of breakfast cereal boxes and groceries just seem to accentuate his isolation. Connie Nielsen is terrific as Nina and Michael Vartan is well cast as the philandering husband. I really like Eriq La Salle’s compassionate police officer who says little, but shows a lot. The tension builds gradually and I can feel the unease in the pit of my stomach, while the score pounds like my heartbeat. As the film draws to a climax, tensions are at a screaming pitch and I can still feel the chill of shocks reverberating through my body. I love the ending and the final shot, offering plenty to think about when the credits have rolled. Gripping and mesmerizing, One Hour Photo is a top, riveting thriller; you may never feel the same again about leaving your film to be processed.
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ONE HOUR PHOTO (MA)
CAST: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Eriq La Salle
PRODUCER: Christine Vachon, Pam Koffler, Stan Wlodkowski
DIRECTOR: Mark Romanek
SCRIPT: Mark Romanek
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeff Cronenweth
EDITOR: Jeff Ford
MUSIC: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Foden
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 30, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: May 14, 2003 (Also on DVD)