In honour of Father’s Day, it only seemed appropriate to take a look at a recent Blu-ray release whose main character goes to pretty wild extremes to show what it means to be in a family and teaches a wayward father a lesson about appreciating what you have. It’s time to dial it back to 2002 as we look at One Hour Photo, a movie that is still as creepy as it ever was 11 years later.
Sy “The Photo Guy” Parrish (Robin Williams) has lovingly developed photos for the Yorkin family since their son was a baby. However, as the Yorkin’s (Michael Vartan and Connie Nielsen) seem to get fuller and fuller, Sy only seems lonelier by comparison, that is until he deludes himself into believing that he is part of the family. But when “Uncle” Sy’s picture perfect fantasy is forced to deal with some cold hard reality, things go off the rails and Sy lashes out in some rather unexpected ways.
A bit of a creepy choice for a Father’s Day special, but as a psychological thriller One Hour Photo packs such a quiet and understated wallop that it really does stay with you. Writer-director Mark Romanek, in what was only his second feature ever at the time, crafts a deep, stunningly sad and still creepy world that draws the viewer in with a unique balance of chills and sympathy. The florescent neon world of the 24-hour super store makes for a brilliant setting as all manner of individual is roaming through that store in one fashion or another and Romanek effectively puts us on edge with some wonderful contrast of light and shadow in concert with a stunning musical score so that we as the audience don’t know who is normal and who is truly disturbed. The narrative really does flow with such ease and it flips the switch making us uncomfortable one moment, then sympathetic towards Sy the very next minute. While everything Romanek did on this film was obviously first rate, this movie could have easily done a nose dive as well if not for an inspired performance from Robin Williams.
As Sy, Williams really did access the heart and soul of a truly broken character who inwardly just wanted to belong, even though his outward actions told a very different story. For such a manic character like Williams to be able to access such an understated place was a special thing to watch unfold as he kept us all wondering which way this broken soul would go. Connie Nielsen made for a great counter point for Sy’s object of affection, not in a sexual way but as that idyllic object and example of perfection that he simply wanted in his life. Along with Michael Vartan as the emotionally neglectful Will Yorkin and young Dylan Smith as Jakob Yorkin, if you’ll pardon the pun, they made for a picture perfect example of the perfect family and gave the character of Sy a perfect foil and goal to obsessively attain. Gary Cole, Eriq LaSalle, Erin Daniels and Clark Gregg round out the ensemble cast, but it is Williams’ performance that simply seeps into your skin and stays with you.
If anything on a day like Father’s Day, One Hour Photo is a chilling reminder to simply not take for granted what any of us have, because for every person with everything there is also someone else who has nothing at all and doesn’t have the slightest idea how to go about getting it.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray is top notch. Special features include a feature length commentary track featuring writer-director Mark Romanek and Robin Williams, an in-depth look at the pre-production process via location/tech scouting and storyboards, cast rehearsals, the making-of “Lensing One Hour Photo”, as well as a plethora of promotional material showing us the entire production process on the film from cradle to grave.
Cast: Robin Williams, Michael Vartan, Connie Nielsen
Directed by: Mark Romanek
Top image: A scene from One Hour Photo. Courtesy 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.