One Hour Photo (2002)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Aug 21, 2002 (USA)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Josh Ralske

One Hour Photo is a meticulously crafted fluorescent nightmare. Robin Williams, in one of the strongest performances of his checkered career, plays Sy (short for Seymour, as in "see more," one of several "cleverly" named characters in the film), the robotically repressed photo processor at a huge, immaculate department store, SavMart. Writer/director Mark Romanek, whose little-seen 1985 debut feature, Static, was also about an obsessive loner, does an excellent job of getting inside Sy's troubled head. He trusts the audience enough to take his time with the story, and Williams' close-to-the-vest performance draws the audience into Sy's precisely demented perspective. Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (Fight Club) and production designer Tom Foden (The Cell) help Romanek capture every obsessive detail of Sy's world. The objects of Sy's unwanted attention, the Yorkin family, aren't as richly drawn as Sy, despite fine performances from Connie Nielsen as Nina and newcomer Dylan Smith as her little boy, Jakob. They're shown from Sy's point-of-view, as blandly beautiful ciphers. His perception of them as the perfect, happy family is just as flawed as their perception of him as the harmless, overly solicitous service industry nobody who develops their pictures. The film ends on an odd, unresolved note. While Romanek invokes the ending of Psycho with a ludicrous attempt to "explain" Sy's mental problems, he doesn't spell out how much of what the audience has seen occurred only in Sy's mind. Sy is a desperate loner whose warped view of the world comes from the idealized family snapshots he takes such care in processing, and when the picture-perfect family fails to live up to Sy's impossible standards, there's hell to pay. One Hour Photo is a creepily effective genre piece, unsettling in its assault on the presumptions people often make about others on the periphery of their lives.