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One Hour Photo

Not Hitchcock but closer than most 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Ooh you lucky, lucky people. You're really getting the cream of the crop this term - all the very best films of last year are being shown at your friendly student cinema: "Frailty", "Insomnia", "The Eye" and this, "One Hour Photo", one of the most gets-under-your-skin creepy films I have ever seen, and one with a central performance from Robin Williams that, if justice was served, would have Mr Oscar knocking on his door.

The ubiquitous Williams plays Sy Parrish, the incongruous, plain, ordinary, everyday guy who works at the local Super Snaps branch. The kind of guy who you know by sight, but wouldn't have a thing to say to in conversation. The kind of guy who, when you walk out of the shop, quickly fades from memory, until he no longer exists for you. The kind of guy who watches, waits, listens, and yearns for a life less lonely than the one he leads.

This life is presented in the form of the Yorkin family, customers who Parrish has served for years, whose children he has watched (through the photos he develops) grow up. As he becomes more and more obsessed with his idea of integrating himself into the perfect family unit, his behaviour becomes more and more unpredictable, until the man you forget from the store becomes a very real and threatening figure indeed. As Parrish becomes more unhinged, and the Yorkin family secrets begin to bleed out of the woodwork, the scene is set for an emotionally shocking and compelling climax.

Romanek's directing history lies in the field of music videos, though you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was in fact in theatre - so carefully are the frames composed, so cleverly is Parrish relegated into the background of his own scenes, that I was quickly reminded of another classic debut film: "American Beauty". And, speaking of Parrish shrinking into the background, Williams is a revelation in this film, which requires him to curb his boisterous tendencies and become the very antithesis of who he is known for being. Parrish is a marvellous creation, a terrifying person with a unique access to our lives, but one who we cannot hate, for we sympathise too much.

I really do think that this was one of the most impressive films of 2002, and film that can be enjoyed on many levels. It's not an easy watch by any means (nor should it be) - it is a bold, challenging and absorbing trip onto the other side of the counter, the other side of sanity. And what we find is very disturbing indeed.

Greg Taylor

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Spring Term (35mm)