One Hour Photo

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One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Romanek
Produced by Christine Vachon
Written by Mark Romanek
Starring Robin Williams
Connie Nielsen
Michael Vartan
Gary Cole
Eriq La Salle
Music by Reinhold Heil
Johnny Klimek
Cinematography Jeff Cronenweth
Edited by Jeffrey Ford
Catch 23 Entertainment
Killer Films
John Wells Productions
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
September 13, 2002 (2002-09-13)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
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. Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, One Hour Photo received positive reviews from film critics, with universal praise directed towards Williams' performance, for which he won a Saturn Award for Best Actor.[4]


Seymour "Sy" Parrish (Robin Williams) is a photo technician at SavMart's one-hour photo developing clinic. He leads a solitary life outside of the "heaven-like" hyperreality atmosphere of the department store. Every day he labors to ensure his customers get the best quality photos possible. His work is his life, as he has no one and nothing to go home to at the end of each day; he spends his evenings sitting alone in his barren living room, watching television. His favorite customers are the Yorkin family: husband Will (Michael Vartan), wife Nina (Connie Nielsen), and their son Jake (Dylan Smith). He has developed their photos for years and has developed an obsession with the family. He idolizes their happiness and affluence, memorizing every personal detail about them.

Sy secretly makes his own copies of the Yorkins' photos from the film negatives and then puts them on a wall in his apartment in a massive collage. He fantasizes about being a member of their family and sharing in the love he assumes they feel. He is painfully shy and socially inept, however, and his attempts to become closer to the family are gently rebuffed. Sy eventually manages to spark a connection with Nina when he pretends to be interested in a book he noticed she purchased in the store. Nina asks Sy personal questions about his life, realizing that he is a lonely man, something only Jake had noticed earlier. The next day, his boss Bill (Gary Cole) fires him for a large amount of inexplicable additional prints. While inspecting his photos for the last time, Sy discovers that Will is having an affair, and his idyllic conception of the Yorkins as the "perfect" family is shattered. Sy surreptitiously places photos of Will and his mistress, Maya Burson (Erin Daniels), into a packet of photos that Nina was scheduled to pick up at SavMart, in order to make her aware of her husband's infidelity.

Sy comes to hate and envy Will, who has everything Sy longs for, yet does not seem to appreciate what he has. Sy follows and takes pictures of Bill's young daughter, and sends them to Bill as a threat. Yoshi, another employee who works at SavMart, discovers the pictures and turns them over to Bill, leading to a police investigation against Sy. While detectives Van Der Zee (Eriq La Salle) and Outerbridge (Clark Gregg) 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 discovers that the police have arrived at the hotel and he attempts to escape. Inadvertently leaving through an emergency exit, Sy trips an alarm and Van Der Zee pursues him while Outerbridge discovers Will and Maya, physically unharmed but deeply traumatized. The police apprehend Sy in the parking garage as he attempts to make a break for his car. Upon being arrested, Sy claims, "I just took pictures."

Van Der Zee interrogates Sy and asks him why he terrorized the Yorkins. Sy states that he can tell Van Der Zee is a good man, and not the sort of father who would take "disgusting, sick, degrading pictures" of his children doing "things that children shouldn't do". (The implication, confirmed by Romanek, is that Sy's father exploited him for child pornography.) Sy then asks for the pictures he took at the hotel, which Van Der Zee has described as "evidence". They appear to be only shots of objects and furnishings of a hotel room. The film closes with an "imagined" family picture of the Yorkins with Will's arm around a smiling Sy.



Romanek intended the film to be much longer, but the studio ordered it to be cut shorter, and elements rearranged out of concerns about commerciality. The beginning, for example, was moved to the end. Also, several of Sy's narrative monologues were removed, and several scenes were re-shot with fewer lines. The original version also has older musical scores that were not used in the final product. A director's cut is not available to buy, but was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.[citation needed]

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.[5]

In accordance with photography being the theme of the movie, many of the characters in the movie take their names from photographers. Examples include: 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 addition, the hotel at the end of the movie, the Edgerton, is also named for a noted photographer — Harold Eugene Edgerton.[original research?]

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." In reality Robin Williams prepared for the role by training for two and-a-half days in a Southern California photo development lab.[6]

In commentary, Romanek has gone on to state that he was partially inspired by the films of 'lonely men' from the 1970s, notably Taxi Driver.

In the DVD commentary, Romanek says that Jack Nicholson was first approached to play the lead character. Nicholson turned the role down.


Critical response[edit]

One Hour Photo opened to generally positive reviews, earning raves from Roger Ebert,[7] Leonard Maltin, and other noted critics. The film has an 81% positive rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.[8] The film's aggregate score at Metacritic is 64 out of 100.[9]

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;[10] this was a moderate box office success, as the budget was around $12 million.


List of awards and nominations
Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Actor Robin Williams Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Actor Robin Williams Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Best Actor Robin Williams Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Robin Williams Nominated
Saturn Awards[11] Best Actor Robin Williams Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Robin Williams' Movie Transformations Retrieved 31 January 2015
  3. ^ Robin Williams, Who Died Monday, Brought Brutal Honesty To Roles - The Press-Democrat Retrieved 31 January 2015
  4. ^ Saturn Awards. "Past Saturn Awards". Retrieved 2002-08-23. 
  5. ^ Trent Reznor (2004-05-07). "Access". Archived from the original on 2006-01-06. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  6. ^ Maerz, Melissa. "Robin Williams, Juilliard-trained tiger". Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Roger Ebert (2004-05-07). "One Hour Photo". Retrieved 2002-08-23. 
  8. ^ Rotten Tomatoes. "One Hour Photo Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2002-08-23. 
  9. ^ Metacritic. "One Hour Photo (2002): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2002-08-23. 
  10. ^ Box Office Mojo. "One Hour Photo (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2002-08-23. 
  11. ^ Saturn Awards. "Past Saturn Awards". Retrieved 2002-08-23. 

External links[edit]