One Hour Photo

Thank God! The drought is over. At last, Robin Williams has stopped doing schmaltzy 'family' roles and realised that he needed to re-define his career - fortunately for a darker turn. One Hour Photo is one of three recent role changes for Williams (the others being Death To Smoochy and Insomnia). His 'family' film persona was wearing more than a little thin and many people longed for a return to darker things. Things don't get much darker than One Hour Photo.

Robin Williams is Seymour 'Sy' Parrish. Sy is pleasant and very attentive to his customers at the SavMart where he works at the one-hour photo development lab there. SavMart is very similar to a WalMart store - everything under one roof. He's a perfectionist when it come to developing photos and cites them as one of the most important things for people to have - each a moment of happiness captured forever, he rationalises.

Sy has been working at SavMart for over 11 years and during that time he has dealt with many customers, some whom he has gotten to know. For example the lady who only photographs her cats, the amateur pornographer and the Yorkins. It is the Yorkins that Sy has a special bond with.

Sy always makes a point of talking to Nina Yorkin (Connie Nelson) and her nine-year old son Jake (Dylan Smith) whenever they come in to have their photos developed. Nina is married to William (Michael Vartan) and they enjoy a happy life together. Sy has been developing their photographs before Jake was even born. He is almost like a member of the family having seen and shared their lives through their photos.

Unfortunately, the Yorkins, to them Sy is just the guy who works at the photo development place, someone whose face and name they know, nothing more. In fact they refer to him as Sy The Photo Guy. They are unaware of his emotional investment in their family. Sy feels like a member of the family and knows them so well that in his dream world he imaging himself as Uncle Sy to Jake.

The manager of SavMart, Bill Owens (played by Gary Cole - of TV's The Midnight Caller fame) dislikes Sy and spends a lot of his time keeping an eye on him.

As Sy tries to become more involved with the Yorkins, he discovers a secret being kept by one of the family, which threatens to tear the family apart as well as Sy. His unrequited love for the family becomes heartbreaking and unbearable - before turning into something much worse.

Robin Williams is truly mesmerising as Sy. His performance has you feeling unbelievably sad for him one minute and then genuinely afraid of what he might do the next. The other performances are good but nothing in comparison to Williams. Mind you he has almost monopolised every scene to be fair. It's the type of performance that is totally opposite to Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs Doubtfire.

There is almost nothing to tell us about the background of Sy except for one revelation (which is probably the only fault of the whole film). Robin Williams has a very soothing voice, which is normally calming. However, the same calm tones help make the instability of Sy all the more believable.

This is one of the few films recently that have avoided clichés normally associated with this genre. It successfully manages to avoid the slasher flick cliché ending like Single White Female and such. The story would have been lost if Sy wanted to be with Connie for example. He's not a pervert or a killer, and is not interested in the Yorkins from a sexual aspect - not to Connie or Jacob. He's just lonely and wants to be in a family unit, even just as an 'uncle'.

First time director, Mark Romanek, paints a very clinical world with excellent visuals. He manages to put Sy in a lot of sterile environments, which add to the impression of his isolation from the world.

The music is excellent at bringing the creepiness of the film to light. No shocking loud scores instead an almost mellow feel to it. Surprisingly Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails scored the film.

However, I fear that it will not do well at the book office, as there is little mainstream appeal. Without the hype of the CGI action films that dominate this year's line-up and an ending that might disappoint some, One Hour Photo might slip away unnoticed. It's a brilliant view into the loneliness that affects many people and on many levels. It could be too simple for some, but the simplicity is the films key appeal.

Hopefully Robin Williams can keep up the good work and stay away from Patch Adams 2.

SCORE 7/10