The world lost a gifted Comedian and actor when Robin Williams decided to take his own life. It spurred me to revisit some of his films and I started with the utterly under appreciated ONE HOUR PHOTO that could be one of his best onscreen performances.
Williams portrays Sy, a lonely man who works at a Wal-Mart type store in their photo-developing lab. He takes great pride in his work, but knows that his days are numbered as digital is just starting to grab a foothold.
His favorite customers are Nina (Connie Nielson) and Will Yorkin (Michael Vartan) and especially their young son Jake (Dylan Smith). Having developed pictures for them from before Jake was even born, Sy feels like part of their family. He’s watched Jake grow up and considers himself as an unofficial “Uncle Sy”. Unfortunately this is all in his head.
Trouble brews at the Yorkin’s house and this coincides with Sy losing his job. This tips the lost man over the edge and he hatches a plan that in his mind will make all his deepest wishes for a family of his own come true.
The feature debut of music video director Mark Romanek, ONE HOUR PHOTO is a slow-burn suspense film that manages to make your skin crawl with anticipation of inevitability. Gorgeously photographed, its inner darkness plays out in bright white spaces, rejecting the shadows and claustrophobia employed by most films of the genre.
Williams completely embodies Sy and it’s hard not to sympathize with him. But unlike his mentally unstable but loveable “Perry” in THE FISHER KING (my personal favorite Robin Williams film), Sy is an unsettling portrait of psychosis and a chilling pressure cooker ready to explode.
Even though Robin Williams is gone, we fortunately have a body of work to remember him by as both a gifted comedian and dramatist. And like THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1982), THE FISHER KING (1991), GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997) and INSOMNIA (2002) to name only a few, ONE HOUR PHOTO stands as a monument to his achievements as a dramatic actor.