One Hour Photo (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/01/2002

Four stars out of Five
Running time: 98 mins

Oddly-moving, slow-burning thriller with a career-best performance from Robin Williams. Yes, that’s right. Robin Williams.

On the evidence of his last three movies - including One Hour Photo, Insomnia and the ill-fated Death To Smoochy (a potential casualty of the FilmFour fall-out, but you’re not missing much) - Robin Williams has locked his blubbering man-child in a cupboard and made a welcome decision to take on much darker, more interesting roles.

This can only be described as A Good Thing, as One Hour Photo proves, since it contains his best performance of the three.

Obsessive Clerk

Williams is Sy Parrish, or 'Sy the Photo Guy', a lonely man who lives through his job as the senior clerk at a one-hour photo stand in a Wal-Mart-type place. Over the years he's become obsessed with seemingly perfect family the Yorkins (Michael Vartan and Connie Nielsen), to the point where he considers himself 'Uncle Sy'.

And when cracks appear in the Yorkins’ marriage, Sy’s fantasies of becoming part of their family life begin to take over, with increasingly disturbing results.


Let’s be absolutely fair. Robin Williams has made his fair share of stinkers in the last few years, to the point where even he appears to be tired of his wacky-yet-sensitive (not to mention hairy) man-child schtick.

And with a CV that includes Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man, Jack, What Dreams May Come and Jakob the Liar, it’s safe to say he’s not alone in those sentiments. What’s less known, however, is that Williams has flirted with evil, sinister characters before – he was superb as the mad bomber in The Secret Agent, a film nobody saw.

Thankfully, then, his performance in One Hour Photo is markedly different to anything he’s done before, and he manages the impressive feat of being both creepy and yet sympathetic at the same time. He’s helped by a convincing make-up job and the fact that Romanek presumably kept him on a short leash. At any rate, he’ll undoubtedly pick up some major critical praise for this and for once, he deserves it.

The rest of the cast are good too, particularly Connie Nielsen (last seen in Gladiator) as Nina Yorkin (who gets the balance exactly right in her attitude to Sy), Michael Vartan as Will and Dylan Smith, as the boy, Jakob. There’s also reliably obnoxious support from Gary Cole as Williams’ officious manager.

Oddly Clinical

This is an impressive first feature from video-director Mark Romanek and it benefits from a very distinctive, brightly coloured look that seems at once vibrant and yet oddly clinical. There are also some truly off-the-wall moments, such as Williams’ fantasy sequences. (One in particular is especially hard to shake off).

In short, this is an oddly moving, slow-burning thriller that creeps up on you and gets under your skin, rather than going for out-and-out shocks or thrills. It’s worth seeing for Williams’ performance and it also marks Romanek out as a talent to watch in future. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

One Hour Photo (15)
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Content updated: 23/03/2019 21:33

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