If your average moviegoer were pressed to provide their most vivid memories of Robin Williams, it would probably be of the lighthearted actor and comic genius who starred in such saccharine vehicles as Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Hook. It might then surprise viewers that Williams has shown great ability in more serious roles, portraying characters that could be described as downright sinister and chilling. It’s just that sort of tense performance that is on display in the criminally underappreciated One Hour Photo.
Williams plays the central character of Seymour ‘Sy’ Parrish, a dedicated but lowly photo technician at generic retailer SavMart. Sy is an accomplished photo developer who takes great pride in the quality of his work, but has struggled throughout his life with feelings of isolation. To deal with his longstanding loneliness, Sy closely observes his customers, but pays special attention to the Yorkin family which he often idealizes. Sy fantasizes about being a member of their family, and soon begins collecting duplicate copies of their personal photos. However, when Sy uncovers evidence that the Yorkins might not be as perfect as they seem, his world quickly unravels around him.
The cast of Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, and Gary Cole all put forth an excellent effort, but it’s clearly Williams who defines the film. Williams exudes an odd intensity throughout the whole 96 minutes that will leave many audience members wondering whether this is really the actor who was introduced to TV audiences through his goofball antics on Mork & Mindy. The inevitable collapse of Williams’ character towards the end of the film is a bit jarring, but clever writing and an assured performance by the cast make it all work.