One Hour Photo is the sort of shop you’d need if you want your snaps developed quickly. Most people do a good enough job in their own vocation in life to get by, but Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) takes things to extremes.
He muses on how each photo is a snapshot in time, how it defines what we’ve done and where we’ve been… and starts to take an unbelievably unhealthy interest in the Yorkin family, a mother and father occasionally at odds with each other and their young son Jake.
This is the kind of film where I can’t really say too much. It’s plain to see from early on that Sy – short for Seymour – is a loner and an incredibly disturbed individual. Just how that manifests in his day-job and his home life is played out for the camera.
One Hour Photo can be minimalist one moment and shock you the next, which strikes of similar dealt out in director Mark Romanek‘s only other full-length feature film, 1985’s Static, starring Amanda Plummer, one of my favourite films of the 80s and which is only available on Region 1 DVD to import. Mark’s also known as a director of music videos for the likes of Madonna, David Bowie and REM.
Although lightweight at comedy of recent times, Robin Williams always puts in a good turn for drama such as in What Dreams May Come and the 2002 remake of Insomnia and therefore excels as the freaky photo lab assistant, while the rest of the cast is fine but take on roles that never cause them to think too much about their performance, including E.R.’s Eriq La Salle as a detective and Gary Cole (Midnight Caller, American Gothic) as Sy’s manager.
The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen ratio as seen in the cinema, but while most of the print is fine, shots of Sy’s flat can be over-grainy for such a recent film and some scenes in the photo store look like the all-white background is giving the foreground objects a bit of a problem. It’s difficult to describe, but it doesn’t sit right onscreen and looks a little jerky at times. A scene just over an hour at the door of the Yorkin household is similarly affected.
For such a drama there won’t be a great deal in the way of stand-out FX, but creepy swooping noises can be heard on the soundtrack to add tension.
When the disc begins it immediately plays very jerky 16:9-letterboxed trailers for forthcoming titles 28 Days Later, The Good Girl, Super Troopers, the remake of Solaris – which disappeared quickly from the cinema – and John Malkovich’s The Dancer Upstairs. I don’t like this way discs do this. They should only be made selectable from the usual menus and not forced upon you in this way.
The extras aren’t plentiful and partly repeat themselves a bit:
- Cinemax Featurette (13 mins): Standard TV filler. Letterbox 16:9-cropped clips with chat from the main cast and crew – the chat being shot in 4:3.
- Charlie Rose Show (34½ mins): An interviewer I’ve never heard of before, but one in New York who chats to Robin Williams and Mark Romanek. The trailer is shown at the start of this section, but don’t watch it before you see the film. Not even the UK trailer showed clips in such depth as it contains too many spoilers.
- Sundance: Anatomy of a Scene (27 mins): A deeper look at Sy’s meeting with Will in the PC/Mac aisle, for a while as the rest is like an extended version of the Cinemax featurette.
- Audio Commentary: A feature-length commentary from director Mark Romanek and actor Robin Williams complete with subtitles.
The film contains 32 chapters, subtitles are available in English for the hearing-impaired only and the menus are animated with subtly-creepy music from the film.
Running time: 92 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Released: March 31st 2003
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English SDH
Format: 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Mark Romanek
Producers: Pamela Koffer, Christine Vachon and Stan Wlodkowski
Screenplay: Mark Romanek
Music: Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek
Sy Parrish: Robin Williams
Nina Yorkin: Connie Nielsen
Will Yorkin: Michael Vartan
Jake Yorkin: Dylan Smith
Bill Owens: Gary Cole
Det. James Van Der Zee: Eriq La Salle
Det. Paul Outerbridge: Clark Gregg
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.