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Daily task turns into refreshing thriller

by Archives September 11, 2002

The decadent descent into the psyche of an obsessive man highlights the small film, One Hour Photo.

Robin Williams continues his journey into darkness as his last three films in Hollywood have at times been dubbed William’s trilogy of darkness.

Under the direction of Danny De Vito he played a larger than life maniacal and comedic character in the misunderstood Death To Smoochy.

He later worked with Al Pacino as a terribly subtle yet conniving killer in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia.

He now ends his trilogy of surreal characters with his most lush performance yet, under the direction of first time Director, Mark Romanek.

Williams portrays Seymour Parrish, a quaint and gentle one-hour photo lab technician who slowly finds himself obsessing with a young suburban family. Williams completely transforms himself and haunts the audience with his surprisingly dark performance in a very well made film.

Distinct traits surround this film as Director Romanek frames his images in a suggestive manner and creates a world in an unnamed suburban town where a casual encounter at the photo lab turns into a menacing relationship.

Romanek creates a paradox in this film as he counters the film’s dark tone with an astonishing white colour palette that stays with the film even throughout its darkest moments. Even the film’s climax gets played out under bright lights. A highly suggestive ending leaves the door open for a massive amount of discussion and interpretation.

Williams is simply brilliant as Sy Parrish and presents the cinematic world with a different breed of evil.

The same characteristics are elicited from this man as he adjusts his specs while he speaks and makes sure he is always neat and tidy. His best feature is allowing the audience to actually be able to witness his descent into obsession after the world implodes on this one little man.

While this character is not perversely evil as other characters seen in formulaic thrillers, Williams is an apathetic character with evil intentions who does not see it in that manner. He is teaching a lesson to someone. Yet, for those who have seen the film – what were the intentions? What was the lesson and what were the results?

Credit can be given to Romanek’s script as he opens the film demonstrating the meticulousness of the main character as Sy provides a voice over and so elegantly describes the process of photo finishing and how he deems it as a form of art.
The film continues to demonstrate his loneliness and futility as a man sequestered in monotony as he fulfills the same repetitious and tedious tasks on a successive basis in his boxed up profession. Boredom slowly gives way to obsession as he becomes infatuated with a young mother and her family. The brilliance of this obsession is not based on a sexual nature but on a need to fulfill his longing for acceptance and belonging.

Williams exudes pity and despite his thoughts for the future, we as an audience cannot but help to elicit sympathy upon his misfortune. And this is where the film’s underlying message comes into play.

Parrish repeatedly speaks about appreciating one’s fortune and the aspect is repeatedly mentioned throughout the film. One’s inappreciation of fortune seems to be the nucleus of this lesson as the audience is slowly introduced to the heart of his obsession. The lovely Connie Nielsen (Devil’s Advocate) is the object of Sy’s obsession as she and her family are at the center of his trickery. Nielsen provides just the right amount of vulnerability for our antagonist to execute his plan.

Romanek brings to the screen a highly visual film without all the effects and frenetic editing. He brings to the screen a graceful and amoral character thanks in part to Williams and he also brings a very refreshing dramatic thriller that will ensure discussion long after the film ends. A worthwhile little film that is a great change from the contrived and tepid thrillers we are so used to.

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