“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”


An Illusion review by Joan Ellis       

       “No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”  That unsettling sentiment not only fuels “One Hour Photo,” but sets us to thinking about family albums everywhere.  Celebrations and victories flow from page to page; not many funerals, not many pictures of defeat.  We idealize ourselves in our albums, and as the years pass the pictures tend to become the reality of our lives.  We were perfect. 

                Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) has fallen in love with just such a perfect family.   As manager of the One Hour Photo desk in the Savmart discount store, Sy has been developing pictures of the Yorkin family for eleven years.  He loves Nina (Connie Nielsen) and adores her young son Jakob (Dylan Smith).  His feelings for husband Will (Michael Vartan) are more complicated.  Seeing mother and son almost as Madonna and Child, Sy knows in his heart that Will can’t possibly be good enough for them.  He will protect them.

                The first real chill of the movie hits hard when the camera follows Sy home from the store.  There, pasted on the wall of his apartment in exact chronological order, is the life of the Yorkin family.  Sy lives alone with a lamp, a TV and a chair.  He eats alone in a diner.  His only friends live in the perfection of those pictures on the wall.

                Robin Williams has created an unnerving Mr. Unnoticeable in the quiet, lonely man who fulfills his photo shop responsibilities with blood curdling precision.  He is a man inhabiting an empty world with only his obsession for company.  Perhaps his greatest accomplishment here is that we forget within moments that he is Robin Williams.  Gone is the comic.  Here instead, is a balding automaton who harbors an obsession that is eating him alive but is nowhere visible on the surface.  With a different voice, and a different physical being, he succeeds in frightening us as Seymour Parrish. 

                Aside from the central drama, there is an isolated bit of comedy about those of us who bring our camera rolls to such places:  the lady who takes pictures only of her cats, the insurance adjuster who brings pictures of accidents.  It is believable that the processor who works alone might become part of his imaginary family, especially the family with the beautiful wife, handsome son and the possibly flawed husband. 

                The creepiness of Robin Williams’ character is matched nearly in full by the fluorescent sterility of the mall of which Savmart is a part.  In an equally sterile management cubicle, the store boss can watch all his employees, full time, on a bank of monitors.  The movie, along with the current “The Good Girl,” manages to convey the degree to which the mall, in reality and metaphor, can steal the souls of people who work or shop in their calculated atmosphere.  Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of this movie about a stalker/protector spawned and nurtured by a barren culture.

Copyright (c) Illusion

Return to Ellis Home Page