While many films stand the test of time, others fade into obscurity. Whether this happens over a period of years or almost instantly upon a film’s release, each of these titles have slipped through the cracks of our collective memory to join the ranks of the Films That Time Forgot.
Though One Hour Photo may not have been entirely forgotten by time, its passing into obscurity is undeniable. Though the film’s premise, which instantly ages it, may be mostly to blame, it still has a lot to offer a modern audience, and deserves to be remember far better than it is.
Starring Robin Williams in an uncharacteristic dramatic (not to mention sinister) role, One Hour Photo follows photo technician Sy as he carries out his work in a big-box store photo kiosk. The premise hinges on society’s one-time need to have their photos developed, particularly in the way that offered a stranger a window into the lives of the general public. Though this ages the film, the general message remains intact: we all project an image of ourselves to the world, and others sometimes focus a little too hard on it.
One Hour Photo paints Sy as a sympathetic figure who also happens to be incredibly unnerving. The reveal that he keeps photographs of the Yorkin family adds an extra layer to his incredibly intense personality, and as the film goes on his behavior becomes more and more erratic as his life begins to unravel due to his obsession.
Williams’ subtle, nuanced performance is what makes One Hour Photo such a deeply interesting film. There are clear layers to Sy that the film doesn’t overtly address, instead implying them by allowing the subtext to speak for itself. In this, director Mark Romanek creates something that feels both very insightful and very cold and impersonal all at once, contributing to the film’s deeper themes of loneliness and obsession and how the two can interact.
One Hour Photo‘s story takes a number of turns that are unpredictable, but a clear thread of twisted logic strings the plot together. At a mere 96 minutes, it’s a tightly-paced thriller that effectively achieves its job of being intensely creepy while still painting a sympathetic portrait of an emotionally disturbed (but ultimately well-intentioned) man.
There’s very little about One Hour Photo that doesn’t hold up other than its premise. Though the idea that drives its plot may now have been rendered obsolete, the story itself is timeless: a lonely man becomes obsessed with a stranger, only for his fantasy to crash down around him and expose his dangerous capabilities. Though it’s a story that has been told many times before and since, One Hour Photo will always stand out among them for Robin Williams’ excellent performance.
Summary: Though it may not be entirely original, One Hour Photo is a chilling and thoroughly unsettling story excellently brought to life by a subtly unhinged performance from Robin Williams.
Highlight: Any of Sy’s emotional outbursts are acting gold from Williams, proving that he’s a far more versatile performer than he’s remember to be.