One Hour Photo

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One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Romanek
Written byMark Romanek
Produced by
CinematographyJeff Cronenweth
Edited byJeffrey Ford
Music by
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • January 13, 2002 (2002-01-13) (Sundance)
  • August 21, 2002 (2002-08-21) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$52.2 million[1]

One Hour Photo is a 2002 American psychological thriller film[2][3] written and directed by Mark Romanek and starring Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, and Eriq La Salle. The film was produced by Catch 23 Entertainment, Killer Films, and John Wells Productions and released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The film premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, was given a limited release on August 21, 2002, and was given a wider release on September 13.[4][5] One Hour Photo received positive reviews from film critics, including praise for Williams' against-type performance, which earned him a Saturn Award for Best Actor.[6] The film was also a commercial success, grossing $52.2 million against a $12 million budget.


Seymour "Sy" Parrish is a photo technician at a one-hour photo in big-box store SavMart. He lives alone, has no friends or love life, and lives only for his work, which he considers a "vital service". His favorite customers are the Yorkin family, whose photos he has developed for many years. Over the years, he has grown obsessed with the family, enshrining them in his home with their photos that he secretly copies. However, as he is shy and socially inept, his attempts to become closer to the family are gently rebuffed.

Sy eventually manages to spark a connection with Nina Yorkin when he pretends to be interested in a book that he saw her purchase. Nina learns that Sy lives a solitary existence, something only her son Jake had considered previously. The next day, Sy is fired after the store's manager Bill discovers that Sy has printed many more prints than have been ordered and paid for, as well as for spacing out on the job, taking 90-minute lunch breaks, giving Jake a disposable camera free for his birthday, and for an altercation with the developing machine's maintenance person.

While inspecting his photos for the last time, Sy discovers that Will Yorkin is having an extramarital affair, and his idyllic conception of the Yorkins as the perfect family is shattered. He surreptitiously places the photos of Will and his mistress, Maya Burson, into a packet of photos that Nina was scheduled to pick up. Sy follows and takes pictures, paparazzi style, of Bill's young daughter, and sends them to Bill as a threat. Yoshi, another SavMart employee, discovers the pictures and turns them over to Bill, leading to a police investigation against Sy.

While detectives Van Der Zee and Outerbridge discover Sy's obsession, Sy confronts Will and Maya during a rendezvous in their hotel room. Armed with a knife and a camera, Sy forces the lovers to pose naked in sexual positions while he takes pictures. After the confrontation, Sy sees that the police have arrived at the hotel and he escapes through an emergency exit. The exit door trips an alarm and Van Der Zee pursues him while Outerbridge discovers Will and Maya, physically unharmed but emotionally traumatized. The police apprehend Sy in the parking garage. Upon being arrested, Sy claims, "I just took pictures."

When Van Der Zee asks Sy why he terrorized Will and Maya, Sy says that he can tell Van Der Zee is a good father who would never take "disgusting, sick, degrading pictures" of his children, suggesting that Sy's own father exploited him for child pornography. Sy then asks for the pictures that he took at the hotel, which Van Der Zee described as "evidence". They appear to be only shots of objects and furnishings of a hotel room. The film closes with an enigmatic family picture of the Yorkins with Will's arm around a smiling Sy.



Trent Reznor, of the band Nine Inch Nails, composed the original film score, but Romanek opted not to use it. Some of the music evolved into the material on the Nine Inch Nails EP Still.[7]

In accordance with the photography-themed movie, the names of several characters are drawn from actual photographers: Sy's assistant at the Savmart, Yoshi Araki (named for Nobuyoshi Araki); Det. Van Der Zee (James Van Der Zee); Det. Outerbridge (Paul Outerbridge); Maya Burson (Nancy Burson); and Savmart customers Mrs. von Unwerth (Ellen von Unwerth) and Mr. Siskind (Aaron Siskind).

In one of the voice-over pieces Sy can be heard to say, "They actually believe that any idiot that attends a two-day seminar can master the art of making beautiful prints in less than an hour. But of course, like most things, there's far more to it than meets the eye." Robin Williams prepared for the role by training for two and-a-half days in a Southern California photo development lab.[8]

In an interview, Romanek said that he was inspired to create this movie by films from the 1970s about "lonely men", notably Taxi Driver (1976).

In the DVD commentary, Romanek says that Jack Nicholson was first approached to play the lead character. Nicholson turned the role down reportedly because he thought the character was too similar to the role he played in The Shining.


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, One Hour Photo holds an approval rating of 81% based on 199 reviews, with an average rating of 7.03/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Robin Williams is very effective in this creepy, well-shot thriller."[9] At Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.[11]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars and wrote: "Robin Williams plays Sy, another of his open-faced, smiling madmen, like the killer in Insomnia. He does this so well you don't have the slightest difficulty accepting him in the role."[12] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the film is "not nearly as intelligent, thoughtful or penetrating as it promises to be. Yet the consistent delicacy and emotional clarity of Williams' acting in One Hour Photo makes the picture impossible to dismiss."[13]

Box office[edit]

The film's limited release began on August 21, 2002 in seven theaters, opening to a $321,515 weekend, with an average of $45,930 per theater. Its wide release began on September 13, with a 1,212 theater count. Still, the film made just over $8 million that weekend, and went on to gross $31,597,131 in the US, with an additional $20,626,175 in overseas territories, for an international total of $52,223,306;[1] this was a moderate box office success, as the budget was around $12 million.


Award Category Recipients Result
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Actor Robin Williams Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Actor Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Best Actor Nominated
Best Breakthrough Filmmaker Mark Romanek Won
Satellite Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Robin Williams Nominated
Best Editing Jeffrey Ford Nominated
Saturn Awards[14] Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated
Best Writing Mark Romanek Nominated
Best Actor Robin Williams Won
Best Supporting Actress Connie Nielsen Nominated
Best Music Reinhold Heil Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c One-Hour Photo
  2. ^ Bailey, Maria. "Robin Williams' Movie Transformations". New York Daily News. New York City: Tribune Publishing. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  3. ^ Hornaday, Ann (August 11, 2014). "Robin Williams, Who Died Monday, Brought Brutal Honesty To Roles". The Press-Democrat. Santa Rosa, California: Sonoma Media Investments LLC. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  4. ^ Germain, David (January 17, 2002). "Robin Williams turns menacing in somber Sundance thriller 'One Hour Photo'". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  5. ^ Fischer, Paul (January 2002). "One Hour Photo". Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  6. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Archived from the original on 9 February 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2002.
  7. ^ Trent Reznor (7 May 2004). "Access". Archived from the original on 6 January 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
  8. ^ Maerz, Melissa (April 17, 2011). "Robin Williams, Juilliard-trained tiger". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tribune Publishing. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  9. ^ "One Hour Photo (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  10. ^ "One Hour Photo (2002) Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  11. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "One Hour Photo" into the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 23, 2002). "One Hour Photo". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved October 12, 2017 – via
  13. ^ LaSalle, Mick (August 23, 2002). "One Hour Photo". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California: Hearst Publishing. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  14. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Saturn Awards. Archived from the original on 9 February 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2002.

External links[edit]