One Hour Photo
Grade: B+
Year: 2002
Director: Mark Romanek
Writer: Mark Romanek
Genre: Suspense
Rated: PG-13

My goal in this review, is for you to be able to read it for insight and recommendations without you having the fear of picking up something that may spoil or ruin the movie for you. There are no spoilers, and no plot explanations that will take away all the surprise factors in the movie.

Mark Romanek, whose resume is comprised of mostly music videos, proved that he is a serious director in the movie business, as well as an intuitive writer. Although by no means a mistake, getting such a high-profile actor for such a low budget, independent movie will draw all the attention away from him, and in the direction of the great Robin Williams, as evident in almost every review youĎll read of this film.

Pay attention to the paragraph that follows this one. It is all you need to know about the plot of the movie, and all about it that Iím going to tell you . Thatís why I am confident that this will be one of the safest review you will read, because I will only outline the strong and weak elements; based on those alone should you determine if youíre going to see it or not.

One Hour Photo, if you donít know already, is about a photo technician, Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) who has been in the business for over twenty years, and working at the Sav-Mart for the last eleven. He has a lot of regulars, but he only cares about one family, the Yorkins. Whenever they have film to develop, they take it to Sav-Mart, where Sy has been developing their film even before Jake Yorkin (Dylan Smith III) was born; heĎs now almost ten. He knows all their names by heart, and then some.

I wonít tell you anything else about the plot, after all, this is the kind of movie where you must know as little as possible about the characters if it is going to have the effect on you that it should. If you already know a lot more than what Iíve described, you will fail to be mesmerized by the tactics that Romanek uses to make this one very creepy movie, one that you will enjoy in all its glory.

While One Hour Photo is about Sy, everything youĎll absorb comes from the surrounding environments, backgrounds and isolated locations. The Sav-Mart itself is an entity. It is a very bland and generic store, richly painted bright blue and white, therefore making it a depressing atmosphere with such little color. Itís like your neighborhood K-Mart, only emptier and more spacious. The photo department where Sy works, is completely pale and white, which may or may not parallel an all white insane asylum cell. Sy is an unstable man, and thereís no spoiler in revealing that fact. He has no family, and he has no life outside his obsession of the Yorkin Family.

While everyone was praising the excellent performance of Williams, it was really the craftsmanship of Romanek that made One Hour Photo a worthwhile movie. Here are all the elements you need to know, before going to see One Hour Photo.

The weakest part of the movie. Robin Williams was brilliant, as usual. And I donít mean to take away and credit from him. But at the same time, you should never expect anything less from the well known actor. The problem exists in the characters of the Yorkin Family. They are all one dimensional, and unconvincing. The parents have the stupidest conservations at home to shake things up, and I wasnít happy with young Jake, in which it appeared he needed to take a 30 second pause between dialogue exchange to either read a cue card or take direction from someone off screen. The father, (Michael Vartan) is even worse, showing no expression or emotion. Although only a minor fragment in the movie, you have to eventually ask yourself, -Of all the families Parrish has worked with over the years, why obsess with this one?-

The mother (Connie Nielsen (I)) was too thick. After being followed many times by a bright white Toyota Echo, you think she would eventually begin to catch on. But she is clueless. She also never suspects a thing wrong with Parrish, even after they have a bizarre encounter with each other at the mall. What was so bizarre? Again, I canít tell you.

I canít say enough about how well Mark Romanek turned an otherwise bland plot, and make it as dark and ugly as he did. He used a very low budget and independent appeal, which most mainstream trained audiences will question the obscurity of some of the horrifying scenes that were un-doubtfully necessary. Of course I wonít tell you what they are--ok hereís a clue. Imagine an empty department store. Itís full of shelves, with nothing on them. Everything is bright white, except for a man standing in the center of the store. The camera pans across the racks that once held dozens of products, now bare. There is a purpose for this scene, but I just wanted to give you an idea of the style.

There is also fine craftsmanship in the way Romanek takes you inside the mind of Parrish. You see his dreams, and you see Parrish in them. What is so disturbing, is that you witness his fantasies. On the outside, he looks like the typical nice guy across the street that you donít know anything about; just that heís nice.

Romanek does a phenomenal job getting the point across that Parrish is severely damaged, mentally. I want to give you some examples, but that will only decrease the shock that you will get when you see it unexpectedly.

Youíll never hear department store music the same way ever again after seeing One Hour Photo. One memorable scene, is when Parrish is walking down the isles to upbeat and cheerful shopping tunes, suddenly turned dark and sadistic. That simple element, and many of them, is what makes this movie so disturbing, and the catalyst for every reviewer who has been praising it for being so amazing.

One Hour Photo has some of the most chilling sequences. One youíll never forget, is when Parrish is looking at a photo of the Yorkin Family during one Christmas. The still lights on the tree begin to glow, and now the photo becomes real life, taking you to that time when that photo was taken. You donít get many powerful scenes in the movies the way you see them here.

Mark Romanek may have shown more than he needed to. There are a lot of gratuitous scenes of exploitation that wouldnít have been missed if cut from the final version.

The movie walks on a very fine line between fascination and boredom. That is why I am so cautious about saying too much, or you finding out too much. The beauty in this movie is how it develops and unfolds. Without it, there is little structure. Itís just about a lonely man with an obsession to be part of a family he adores. The way it progresses it what makes it good.

One Hour Photo concludes with very few unanswered questions or elements that need explanations. There is closure, and after learning about some of the more internal and more complicated issues regarding the Yorkins, it will be concluded that Parrish had a purpose in being so obsessed with this family. What that is, will be answered once you see the movie for yourself.

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