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One Hour Photo (2002)

R · 96 minutes

Directed by Mark Romanek
Written by Mark Romanek

 · Robin Williams
 · Connie Nielsen
 · Michael Vartan

Review by Thom Stricklin

Robin Williams is no longer simply Mork from Ork. He's been making that quite clear for the past five years, ever since Good Will Hunting.  In that time he's played a deranged PBS has-been in Death to Smoochy, a murder-he-wrote psycho in Insomnia, and now this: Sy Parrish, a quiet but isolated and disturbed man who works at a One Hour Photo lab. There's no wonder as to why filmgoers want to see Williams in these dark, serious roles--there's something creepy just in having such a funny man take such drastic departures from the norm. But does One Hour Photo offer anything beyond this?




Yes and no. The film was directed quite successfully by Mark Romanek, who among other things, knows how to use visual isolation, "negative space" to develop tension. Throughout Sy's world, there are empty walls and floors where it seems there should be at least something. But alas, Sy is alone, and we can see it through the world he lives in.

However, not as much can be said of Romanek the writer as of the director. Throughout the film, I found the plot to be quite predictable, indeed almost cliché on psychodrama standards. Everything Sy does is expected well ahead of time, right up the the final few scenes. But wait? Does that mean it takes a surprise turn at the end? I guess. Rather than live up to our psychotic expectations, Sy regresses to another cliché: the harmless but disturbed person who was abused as a child. Romanek makes an attempt to force us to consider our values pertaining to family, but he doesn't really succeed. I was left feeling, "Eh." That's the surprise.

If anything carries this film, it is Robin Williams. He was not given much to work with in the role of Sy, but he makes the most of what it was. He proves once again that he's a multitalented actor, although it will require some better writing before he delivers a role as memorable as his in Good Will Hunting or even his comedies.




As far as psychological thrillers go, most of the entertainment value depends on how well-written, well-directed and thus engrossing the film is. This film doesn't offer much. It's certainly not unbearable, and I was at least invested enough to stick around for the end, but it doesn't offer much more than that. Sy, by the very nature of his character, is hard to invest in, and even Williams' solid performance is not enough to make up for it. What may have done the trick is some deeper insight into the character, his past, the reasons he is how he is. But alas, we're not given it.



One Hour Photo is worth price of a rental if you want to see Robin Williams in another "different" role. After all, that was the whole hook for the film in the first place, and you'll understand why. It's an interesting attempt, but won't come close to rivaling the true great psychological thrillers like Silence of the Lambs.

507 Words · Published: 19 February 2003

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