‘One Hour Photo’ is fully developed

Ted Pigeon

Few actors have had a more diverse career than Robin Williams. He has been in his share of good movies, bad movies and everything in between. His roles have ranged from Peter Pan to Patch Adams, funny to serious, and his performances have ranged from brilliant to moronic. After winning an Oscar for his remarkable performance in “Good Will Hunting,” Williams has explored new territory.

As usual, there have been hits and misses. Perhaps no other year has been more illustrious for the comedian/actor than 2002, in which he has ventured into darkness with films such as “Death to Smoochy” and “Insomnia.” He provided another standout performance as the villain in “Insomnia,” but that performance may very well be eclipsed by his Oscar-worthy performance in his latest film, “One Hour Photo,” in which he gives one of the most astonishing performances of his career.

In “One Hour Photo,” Williams plays Sy Parish, a lonesome man who works at the photo division of a drug store called Sav-mart. He takes his job quite seriously, and believes there is something unique about picture-taking. He says that a photograph can stop time and capture a split moment forever. What fascinates Sy is that people only take pictures of the happy moments in their lives; people are always smiling and having a good time. But he thinks there is more going on in a photograph than just good times and smiles.

Being the lonely man that he is, Sy grows attached to a customer and her little boy. Every time he develops her pictures he makes a set for himself too. Every night he comes home and studies his wall, which has hundreds upon hundreds of pictures of the Yorkin family. After becoming so familiarized with their life, Sy beings to think that he is a part of it and often fantasizes about being Uncle Sy.

Nina, the mother, befriends Sy. She does all the shopping and housework while her husband, Will, runs a company and stays late working every night. Their son Jake usually accompanies Nina on her errands and has an immediate sympathy for Sy. He thinks that Sy doesn’t have any friends or family and feels sorry for him. His mother hears about this and endeavors to be kinder to Sy.

As a result of his constant watching, Sy feels that he is apart of the Yorkin family. For eight years he has developed their photos and watched them evolve as a family. He shows up at Jake’s soccer practice and walks him home from time to time. He is a man who studies detail, who will go out of way to recognize the smallest things that we think are unnoticeable. Yet, the Yorkins just think he is a nice guy. But when Sy sees something that he shouldn’t see in a photograph, he reacts bitterly and violently.

What follows is a thriller that will scare you on a totally different level. It is grounded in a reality that is all too frightening. We get to know Sy as well as the Yorkin family in this film in a balanced manner. To Sy, the Yorkins are his life, the life he wishes he believes he is a part of in a twisted way. To Nina and Will, Sy is just the photo guy who develops their pictures. And as Sy says about photographs, there is much more going on than just smiles. That is the unsettling aspect about the movie. It gives us characters that interact consistently throughout the story, yet the real story is what these characters don’t know, and will eventually find out in a grisly way.

“One Hour Photo” is a haunting film that will get under your skin and stay there. It is by no means a perfect movie, but it is very effective and extremely well made, with cinematography and musical score that add to the atmosphere the movie creates so well. But none of it would have worked if it weren’t for Robin Williams’ frighteningly good performance. He unquestionably deserves a nod from the Academy for his performance, and he is the reason why “One Hour Photo” is more than just a good movie.