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Film / One Hour Photo

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“...and if these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it's this: I was here. I existed. I was young, I was happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture.”

"All I did was take pictures."

One Hour Photo is a 2002 Psychological Thriller film directed by Mark Romanek and starring Robin Williams.

Seymour "Sy" Parrish works as a technician at a supermarket's one-hour photo developing clinic. He's clean-cut and quite ordinary to the point of boring, but not all is well in Sy's world. He slowly becomes obsessed with the Yorkins, a seemingly perfect modern American family who are among his regular customers. Sy tries to interject himself into the Yorkins' lives, which they subtly turn down. After learning a dark secret happening within the family, he is distraught and tries to do something about it, although in disturbingly stalker-like ways. Interspersed in the whole mess are more than a few really creepy moments and a very well-built thriller climax.

Released to positive reviews, this movie gave Williams a much-needed Career Resurrection and, along with Insomnia and Death to Smoochy, helped usher in the so-called "dark period" of the actor's career where he brought disturbing subtexts of his protagonists 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:

  • Abusive Parents: It is strongly implied by Sy at the end of the movie, that his parents sexually abused him and used him for child pornography.
  • Adult Fear: Near the ending, it's discovered that Sy has taken 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.
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  • 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 
  • Anti-Villain: Sy is a type 2.
  • Berserk Button: Don't even think of suggesting that Sy would "fuck up" a customer's photos.
    Sy: I've never fucked up a customer's prints in 11 years!
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Yorkins, especially with Sy involved.
  • Broken Pedestal: Will to Sy after discovering his affair.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Played with very darkly. Sy was a very odd man even when he was trying to act sane, but as he mentions to his boss at one point, he was the best photo developer in the city and he worked on the settings himself.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Will's affair. Nina even knows about it, but still wants to get in touch with him for his safety.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Downplayed. After the nightmare sequence with a brutal case of red eye, Sy wakes up panting, twitching, and sweating. He also feels across his face and eyes to make sure he's okay before he calms down.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The hunting knife.
    • To a lesser extent, the free camera Sy gave to Jake which is how Sy informs Nina that Will is cheating on her.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: All of Sy's scenes look "poorly developed" while the Yorkins' scenes are bright and advertisement-perfect.
    • 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 Yorkins' more "earthly" home. This was done to reflect how Sy sees the three different environments; the heavenly fantasy he built up seeing the Yorkins' photographs in the store, the warm homey scenes contained therein, and the hell of his lonely existence.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Sy just happens to run into Nina Yorkin, and he's been reading the exact same book she has! Because he's following her at the mall, and he saw her buy it.
  • Conversational Troping: Sy at one point (which made it to the trailers as a voiceover) converses the origin of the term "snapshot", mentioning that the term was originally used... for hunting.
  • Creepy Monotone: Sy Parrish. It's creepy as hell to hear Robin Williams' voice like that, doubly so on the few times he ends up Suddenly SHOUTING!.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: After he's been arrested, Sy tells the police interrogator that his parents involved him in child pornography when he was young. 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sy's response to the technician's apathy, his own firing, and Will Yorkin's adultery are far more than a sane person would consider justified.
  • Establishing Character Moment: There's a scene early in the movie with Sy getting extremely angry at a technician for a color shift that the tech sees as too small to bother with. This foreshadows Sy's obsessive nature and tendency toward Disproportionate Retribution, as well as the store's lack of attention to detail.
  • Eye Scream: The Red Eyes, Take Warning sequence.
  • Fictional Counterpart: SavMart for WalMart.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At one point, Sy tells Jake that he was a sickly child and specifically mentions that he had mono and hepatitis, both of which can be sexually transmitted. This serves as early foreshadowing that Sy was sexually abused by his parents.
    • During his lunch with Nina, he comments on Deepak Chopra's line in the book that "The things we fear the most have already happened to us". Puts a significantly darker light to things when you realize that Mr. Yorkin had been having an affair and essentially ruining his "perfect vision" of the Yorkins long before he has even realized it himself.
  • High-Pressure Blood: One really bad case of "red eye." See below.
  • 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.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After sneaking evidence of Will's unfaithfulness into Nina and Jake's photos, Sy follows them home and, while spying through their windows from a car across the street, expresses frustration with Nina's failure to confront Will.
    Sy: (snarling under his breath) What the hell is wrong with these people?!
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": A number of fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion like to point out Sy's and Jake's mispronunciations of the word "Evangelion" as "Ay-von-jelly-un." Sometimes with hilarious consequences.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The Yorkin family represents everything Sy wants, but can't have.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Background Event: As Sy is leaving SavMart for the last time, he passes several TVs on display. They all show a burning house, perfectly mirroring his mental state.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Yorkin = Your Kin.
    • Also, Seymour Parrish = "see more perish".
  • Motive Rant: Sy, at the end. He reveals that he'd had sexually provocative pictures taken of him as a child by his own father.
  • Noodle Incident: Apparently, some "anal sex fiend" has been bringing in their photos to SavMart or is just an infamous incident.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sy breaks into the Yorkins' home while they're away and watches TV on their couch for a while. When he hears them coming through the front door a while later, his expression is very much this. But then it turns out he was just daydreaming.
  • Parental Incest: Sy very heavily implies that his parents did this to him when he was young.
  • Precision F-Strike: Bill, when Sy returns to Sav-Mart to have some pictures developed, after having been fired by Bill.
    Bill: There's no reason for you to come down here other than to fuck with me.
  • Properly Paranoid: Though you can still shop at a place you were fired from (albeit it would be awkward), Bill is worried that Sy is up to something bad when he does this — believing that he may be there to harm the business or at worse, someone, as Sy has been prone to acting on emotion and was upset when he got fired. He's right; Sy is there to threaten Bill and his family.
  • Reality Ensues: Sy makes copies of every one of the Yorkins' pictures to add to his collage. When his boss discovers that he's been making hundreds of unauthorised and unpaid-for prints, he is fired.
  • 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 as he screams and blood shoots from his eyes.
  • 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:
    • Early on in the film Sy watches the classic episode "Cape Feare" of The Simpsons on his TV.
    • Later The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is on TV, but Sy is too busy watching the wall of his Room Full of Crazy.
    • 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.
    • The toy Sy gives Jake is an Evangelion unit note .
      • Oddly Jake refers to the Mass Production Eva as a good guy. While this might be true from a certain point of view, one wonders if it was a mistake or if they were trying to say something here.
      • The mistake (and the mispronunciation of the anime's title) most likely was on purpose and very in-character, since Parrish is hardly one to watch anime and was just trying to be nice.
    • There are quite a few references to photographers.
    • When Sy tricks Maya into telling him her room number, he initially asks if they're in Room 217.
    • Everyone remembers the Evangelion, but nobody remembers Char's Zaku in the fantasy sequence.
  • Stalker Shrine: The giant photo collage of the Yorkin family in Sy's apartment.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Sy himself wants to be part of their family but as the lovable uncle.
  • Stealing from the Till: After some odd occurrences with Sy, his boss looks over his orders for the last several years and finds out that Sy had made multiple photo copies that hadn't been paid for, which leads to him firing Sy as a thief. We know from very early on that all of the copies are photos of the Yorkin family, but it still doesn't prepare people for the sheer amount of them in the Room Full of Crazy.
  • Tears of Blood: Sy, in his dream, has blood red eyes with a single blood-red tear. Right before a lot more shoots out, anyway.
  • Technology 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.
    • It's even lampshaded in the film, when Nina mentions she's thinking about buying one of the new digital cameras and Sy asked her not to, saying he wouldn't want to lose their business. Even sadder in hindsight, when you realize he'd been using their photos to lessen his own loneliness.
    • In addition, this may be one of the things contributing to Sy's rapid mental breakdown. He's smart enough to know that his only way of making a living is quickly becoming obsolete.
  • Twisted Christmas: Briefly evoked when we catch Sy on a break at work, staring into the Yorkins' Christmas card and fantasizing that he was a part of their holiday. We later see the card with Will's face scratched out, which tips the police off to who this family is that Sy's stalking.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Sy narrates a few times through the movie.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: After Sy gets fired from his job at the SavMart, 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.
  • Villain Protagonist: Downplayed. Sy commits invasions of privacy.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Especially when you find out what made Sy crazy.


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