One Hour Photo Review

Robin Williams has often yo-yo'd between mainstream feelgood vehicles and quirky, edgy movies darker than his usual light-weight saccharine, and yet since winning his Oscar for Good Will Hunting Williams has yet to return to form. One Hour Photo should change that, as Mark Romanek's film is an eerily chilling study of the mundane lifestyle that could drive the innocent towards madness.

Williams plays Sy Parrish, a middle-aged loner who obsessively works at a photo-developers section in the local hypermarket. Sy takes immense pride in his work, too much pride, as he ruthlessly keeps a copy of any interesting sets of his customers' photos that he happens to like. Sy is particularly obsessed with one family, the Yorkins, made up by husband Will (Michael Vartan), wife Nina (Connie Nielsen) and nine-year-old son Jake (Dylan Smith). Sy has collected copies of the Yorkin's photos for years, and his obsession with the family has become so strong that his reality boundary has eroded, and he soon starts a dangerous quest to fully integrate himself with the lives he sees in the photos.

One Hour Photo provides Williams with his best performance in years, and is a slick, well-written, well-directed and well-acted tale that never outstays its welcome. It refreshingly does not pander to the usual slasher conventions of the psychological drama, indeed, its final act is one of the most ambiguous conclusions to ever grace a psychological thriller, which furthers heightens the film's originality. You could even argue that Williams as Sy is an anti-heroic vigilante driven to the enforcement of the strict code of decent familial values, which again questions the balance of good versus evil in the film. Essentially, the film is interesting because it plays with most of the genre's conventions without making this obvious to the audience. They watch expecting one type of film and aren't dissatisfied when given another.

Director Mark Romanek handles the film with an icy edge of tension, which doesn't betray his music video education. Romanek wrote the film himself, and so delivers the film with an assured confidence that never panders to a self-indulgent side. It's nice to see a film that can weigh in at just over an hour and a half and not feel as if the material has been compromised. As mentioned, Williams is fantastic, but he is supported well by ER's Eriq La Salle as Detective Van Der Zee and Connie Nielsen as Nina Yorkin. It's a strong cast, and One Hour Photo utilises the actors well.

Now that the blockbuster silly season is over and we are starting to see proper adult filmmaking again, One Hour Photo is a good example of the level of quality we should expect. It's a startling, original and deeply eerie psychological thriller that will surely see a cult audience develop.



out of 10

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