One Hour Photo

One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo
Directed by Mark Romanek
Produced by Christine Vachon
Written by Mark Romanek
Starring Robin Williams
Michael Vartan
Connie Nielsen
Dylan Smith
Gary Cole
Eriq La Salle
Music by Reinhold Heil
Johnny Klimek
Cinematography Jeff Cronenweth
Editing by Jeffrey Ford
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date(s) September 13, 2002 (2002-09-13)
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $52,223,306[1]

One Hour Photo is a 2002 American psychological thriller written and directed by Mark Romanek and starring Robin Williams. Fox Searchlight Pictures distributed the film in the United States. One Hour Photo also starred Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, and Eriq La Salle. Williams won a Saturn Award for Best Actor (2003) for his work in the film.[2]



Seymour "Sy" Parrish, a mini-lab photo technician at SavMart's one-hour photo developing clinic in suburban Los Angeles, leads a depressing, 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. As each workday comes to an end, Sy falls into the inescapable routine of spending his evenings sitting alone in his barren living room, watching television. The only thing in Sy's immaculate apartment he has for companionship is a hamster, caged in his bedroom.

His favorite customers are the Yorkin family: husband Will (Michael Vartan), wife Nina (Connie Nielsen), and their son, Jake (Dylan Smith). He has done their photos for years and, over time, has developed an obsession with the family; he idolizes their happiness and affluence, memorizes every personal detail about them that he can learn, and finally begins to stalk 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. Most of all, he fantasizes about being a member of their family and sharing in the love he assumes they must feel. He is painfully shy, however, and his awkward attempts to become closer to the family are gently rebuffed.

Sy eventually manages to spark a connection to Nina when he pretends to have interest in a book he noticed she had purchased on a particular day in the store. For the first time, Nina asks Sy personal questions about his life, realizing that he is indeed a lonely man, something only Jake had noticed earlier. The next day, his boss Bill (Gary Cole) fires him for stealing 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. He comes to hate and envy Will, who has everything Sy longs for, yet doesn't seem to appreciate it.

After losing his job, Sy stalks and takes pictures of Bill's young daughter as revenge for firing him, leading to a police investigation against him. While detectives Van Der Zee and Outerbridge (Eriq La Salle and Clark Gregg) are discovering Sy's obsession, Sy confronts Will and his mistress, Maya (Erin Daniels), during a rendezvous in their hotel room. Armed with a knife and a camera, Sy forces the lovers to pose naked while he takes pictures. After the confrontation, as Sy just sits on the bed in his hotel room, he discovers that the police have arrived in the hotel and tries to escape. The alarm sounds and Van Der Zee pursues him while Outerbridge discovers Will and Maya, physically unharmed but emotionally traumatized. After a chase, the police finally 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".

The final scene is set in a police interrogation room where Van Der Zee asks Sy why he terrorized the Yorkins, to which Sy indirectly reveals that his father had made him do "sick, disgusting things that no kid should ever have to do". (The implication, confirmed by Romanek, is that Sy's father exploited him for child pornography.) As the detective prepares to take his confession, Sy asks for the pictures he took at the hotel, which the detective has described as "evidence". They appear to be only shots of household objects and interior furnishings he took after the incident in the hotel. The film closes with a picture of the Yorkin family with Sy. Romanek claims in the DVD commentary that the picture is intended to symbolize an open ending; it is left up to the viewer to decide whether the picture only exists in Sy's mind or if he ever sees the Yorkin family again.


Release and reaction

One Hour Photo opened to generally positive reviews, earning raves from Roger Ebert,[3] Leonard Maltin, and other noted critics.

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

Robin Williams won a Saturn Award for his portrayal of Sy.[5]

The film has an 81% positive rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.[6] The film's aggregate score at Metacritic is 64 out of 100.[7]


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.[8]

Trent Reznor, of the band Nine Inch Nails, composed the original film score, but Romanek opted not to use it. The music can be heard on the Nine Inch Nails EP Still.[9]

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.

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.

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.

In one scene, Sy watches the film The Day the Earth Stood Still while standing in front of his wall laminated with photos of the Yorkin family. In another, he watches the Simpsons episode "Cape Feare".


External links

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