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One Hour Photo is a 2002 Psychological Thriller directed by Mark Romanek and starring Robin Williams. Yes, that Robin Williams. note The computer writer?Seymour "Sy" Parrish works in the photo center of a department store. Overall, a pretty boring dude. But, not all is well in Sy's world. He slowly becomes obsessed with the Yorkin family, and tries to interject himself into their lives, including a few scenes with Nina (the mom) and Jake (the kid). After learning William (the dad) is having an affair, he once again gets involved with the family's life. Interspersed in the whole mess are more than a few really creepy moments.Released to positive reviews, this movie gave Williams a much-needed Career Resurrection and along with Insomnia helped usher in the so-called "dark period" of Williams' career where his persona's (A man who wants love and validation from everyone around him.) disturbing subtext is brought to the forefront after spending the past few years making overly maudlin, Tastes Like Diabetes-infused movies. Despite digital photography making photo developing somewhat irrelevant, the movie is still incredibly effective as a Psychological Thriller.
This movie contains uses of:
Adult Fear: During the ending, Sy takes photos of Bill's daughter playing. An understandably freaked out Bill calls the police, setting the climax in motion.
All for Nothing: Sy forces himself into Will and Maya's hotel room, threatens them at knifepoint and makes them pose in pornographic manners while he takes snapshots. It turns out, however he couldn't even bring himself to ruin the Will Yorkin he knows through photographs; he destroyed that cartridge of film and used the other to take pictures of random objects in his own hotel room.
Amateur Sleuth: Sy discovers Will's affair by researching photos on a whim that Maya looks familiar.
Ambiguous Ending: The very last shot in the film is a photograph of the Yorkin Family, with Sy smiling among them. It is intentionally left unclear as to whether this is a real picture, or more of Sy's fantasizing. note According to the director, it's the former. He felt that it was entirely possible for the Yorkins to eventually forgive Sy, and to express some sort of gratitude for his attempt to stop them from falling apart.
The department store, meanwhile, was designed specifically with lighting fixtures that gave off a bright but non-glaring light, to create a "heavenly glow" in contrast to Sy's "Hellish" apartment and the Yorkin's more "Earthly" home. This was done to reflect how Sy sees the three different environments; the heavenly fantasy he built up seeing the Yorkin's photographs in the store, the warm homey scenes contained therein, and the hell of his lonely existence.
Dark and Troubled Past/Freudian Excuse: After he's been arrested, Sy tells the police interrogator that his parents both molested him and took pornographic pictures of him when he was a kid. On top of that, it's implied at an earlier point in the film that on at least one occasion someone has dropped in pedophiliac images to be developed at Sy's store, which very likely didn't help matters.
Daydream Surprise: In one scene, Sy drives up to the Yorkin house while the family is away. This is followed by a montage of him breaking into and exploring the house, and doing mundane things like going to the bathroom. This culminates in him sitting on the couch watching a football game, while drinking a beer and wearing a sweater he hadn't had on before; all just as the family's coming home. They walk in and see him before he can escape, but instead of reacting with shock or outrage, they chat with him like he lives with them and they were merely surprised to see him home. The camera then cuts back to Sy, still sitting in his car, revealing that the whole scene was just a daydream.
Hilarious Outtakes: Sy is such a bottled up and intense character that it's actually fairly shocking to watch the DVD "behind the scenes" features and see that between takes Robin acted just like his normal goofy self. Director Mark Romanek has said that he occasionally would tell Robin to just "let it out" and joke constantly for 10 minutes or so when he felt he had become too deep in character.
Leave the Camera Running: Many, many times in the film. One standout example is during the beginning of the film, which shows Sy in his apartment. At one point, the camera just rests on Sy, standing in front of his sink, holding a glass of water. Unlike other times when this trope is used in the film for the creepiness factor, this time it perfectly illustrates to the audience just how pathetic Sy's life is.
Playing with Character Type: Sy functions as a sort of deconstruction of Robin Williams' character types. Sy, like a lot of his characters desperately wants love and validation from those around him, but here it's shown as pathetic and creepy instead of funny and heartwarming, and the lengths he'll go for it are inherently dangerous.
Rape By Proxy: Sy forces this between an unfaithful husband and his lover while he takes pictures.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: The nightmare scene. Sy is in a completely empty, white department store with his eyes closed. The camera keeps fading in closer until he opens his eyes... that are completely blood red.Trauma ensues.
Room Full of Crazy: Sy's living room. One entire wall is covered with a copy of more or less every single photograph the Yorkins have ever taken in a very exact grid.
It gets even worse when he discovers Will's infidelity; he goes over the wall of photographs and methodically scrapes Will's face out of every single picture with a razor blade.
Shout-Out: Robin Williams' character's last name is "Parrish", the same as his character in Jumanji. Possibly unintentional, though.
As stated above, Sy's boss Bill can be seen as a more serious version of the Bill from Office Space, played by the same actor. And, of course, named the same. It's a sequel.
Tech Marches On: This movie was made at the last possible moment, just as digital photography reached the tipping point that started putting retail-consumer oriented film developers like Sy out of business.
The Villain Knows Where You Live: After Sy gets fired from his job at the One Hour Photo, he shows up one more time to get a roll of film developed. The pictures are all photos of the manager's daughter, in her front yard. Upon seeing these, the manager immediately calls the police.