“One Hour Photo” is an uncompromising and disturbing account of a man’s loneliness and obsession with the perfect life.
Robin Williams is Sy. Sy lives a life of habitual routine and sadness. The only pleasure he receives out of life is developing photographs – photographs of any kind, be it the local pornographer’s, insurance claim assessment photos or family birthday parties.
Sy’s dedication to his work leads him to an unhealthy obsession with the Yorkin family, Nina (Connie Nielsen) and Will (Michael Vartan). From what he sees in their pictures, their life is nothing less than something that would appear in a Norman Rockwell painting. But, what he does not realize is the unhealthy relationship this “perfect” family has.
His obsession moves from giving friendly deals to the family when they drop of the film to making extra prints of the family…for himself. Overcome by his fascination with the family, he casually stalks them, appearing in malls, soccer games and discreetly in front of their home.
Sy goes over the edge once he discovers Will’s unfaithfulness to his family. He is thrown off the deep end of what he thought was the perfect suburban life to turmoil in his own mind. His loneliness, and sense of right and wrong are never justified by any means, allowing him to be the “hero” in his own eyes, hoping to gain acceptance into the Yorkin family, by punishing them for their wrong doings.
Williams delivers, what I would like to consider, the best male performance of the year (beating out his own supporting performance in “Insomnia”). His portrayal of Sy allows the audience to understand and react accordingly to Sy’s actions. He is not a bad man. He is a lonely man who does bad things. Like Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver,” Williams shares the same complexity and emotion that conveys the humiliation and loneliness he endures.
Mark Romanek (a renown music video director) makes his feature film debut as writer/director with this film. His choices are nothing less than flawless. He has an idea, he captures it and he captures it well. Romanek’s uses of images are just as effective as Williams’ performance of allowing us to enter the mind of a man we normally would not examine.
His colors and choice of angle make for not only an entertaining experience, but an aesthetically pleasing rendezvous with film. It is only obvious that a film about developing film, would look as good as Williams’ Sy would want all of his photographs to look.
“One Hour Photo” is different than most of the stalker thrillers to come out of cinema in recent years. The lack of violence and lack of profanity creates an unsettling, gut-wrenching look at our culture and the way people handle their emotions. Romanek does not condescend to the man who develops our photos or the lonely men walking the streets at night. Romanek uses tact and emotion to make Sy relatable to any person, even if they are as “normal” as perceived to be, or as psychotic as Sy really is.
This is a wonderful motion picture, an attempt to make us think about the people in our lives, not by making us scared of what they might be capable of, but by allowing us to understand that we are all flawed human beings.