One Hour Photo
"Mark Romanek's film is both intriguing and unsettling, inviting the viewer to become a voyeur, like Sy, inspecting the minutae of the lives of others."

Considering the sugar-drenched schmaltz fests that Robin Williams has been treating us to in recent years - Jack, Hook or Patch Adams anyone? - it's easy to forget that when his agent actually gets round to sending him something half decent, he really is a compelling actor.

Step forward, then, One Hour Photo, which, despite its camera references, doesn't leave you saying "cheese".

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Williams is Sy - that's Sy, the photoguy. He works in a sterile American sava-genereicmart hell, where he processes rolls of film. He's smiley with his customers, but something doesn't feel quite right. Socially dysfunctional, it quickly becomes apparent that he is filling the void in his life with other people's dreams and visions, captured on their tiny rolls of film.

And the family name in his favourite frame is the Yorkins - Nina (Connie Nielsen), Will (Michael Vartin) and their moppet Jake (Dylan Smith). Sy has watched Jake grow up, living his family's life vicariously through the photographs Nina fetches for developing. He imagines himself in their lives and, more worryingly, keeps copies of all their pictures, pasting them onto a one-wall collage at home.

Sy loves their seemingly idyllic existence so much that when he begins to stalk them without even realising it and when he finds out that all isn't as picture perfect as it first appears, you know trouble can't be far behind.

Mark Romanek's film is both intriguing and unsettling, inviting the viewer to become a voyeur, like Sy, inspecting the minutae of the lives of others. While the performances are strong, the film lacks pace initially. Much is made of Sy's character development, but when we reach the "thriller" segment, Romanek hurtles through to the denoument, barely stopping for breath.

Moppets - or children if you really must insist - in movies are as American as apple pie, but I really wish that writers wouldn't insist on making them speak like adults and making them soooo sweet that just one line ("I'm sad for Sy, because he doesn't have any friends") could give you a sugar high for a week. It's distracting and adds nothing to the plot - cutting room editors, please note.

Grumbles aside, this is Williams's film. He steals it beautifully, managing to keep a slightly sinister edge to the role, while never losing sight of the awfulness of Sy's situation. Finally, he seems to have found some bitterness to counter the sweet. Let's hope he keeps it that way.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2003
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One Hour Photo packshot
Robin Williams assumes the stalker role in this offbeat thriller.
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Read more One Hour Photo reviews:

George Williamson ****
Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Mark Romanek

Writer: Mark Romanek

Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith, Erin Daniels, Paul H. Kim, Lee Garlington, Gary Cole, Marion Calvert, David Moreland, Shaun P. O'Hagan

Year: 2002

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2002

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