By lissa Nichols
We always take pictures of things we want to remember, not of the things we want to forget.
So says Seymour “Sy” Parrish, main character of Mark Romanek’s movie writing and directing debut, One Hour Photo.
Parrish, played in an Oscar-worthy performance by Robin Williams, is a photo developer at SavMart, a Wal-Mart-style chain retail store. He lives a lonely life, seemingly devoid of relationships beyond his pet hamster. After years of developing pictures of the Yorkin family, he begins to feel like part of the family — like “Uncle Sy,” as he puts it. Although Parrish’s demeanor and appearance mimic the character of a grandfather figure, his interest in the Yorkin family is much more twisted.
As the story unfolds, the viewer discovers, along with Parrish, the Yorkin family — father Will, mother Nina and 9-year-old son, Jake — are not the well-adjusted family their pictures may suggest. This knowledge only fuels Parrish’s hunger to be part of their lives, which causes him to make choices that alter each person’s life forever.
In a role that differs greatly from his typical comedic performances, Williams is convincing as an obsessed man whose main desire is to be loved. His Mrs. Doubtfire image is soon shed as he takes the viewer into Parrish’s mind, which enhances the ability for the viewer to understand his dark motivations.
Connie Nielsen is well cast as an at-home wife who longs to preserve her family’s upper class image and Michael Vartan plays a workaholic absentee husband and father well. Dylan Smith, who plays son Jake, is believable as a sensitive boy who becomes concerned about Parrish’s well being.
Romanek, who shot the Nine Inch Nails “Closer” video, has created a visually stunning portrayal of obsession and lies. The stark colors of Parrish’s apartment, wardrobe and workplace match with his almost invisible persona and add a sterile creepiness to the plot. Imagery is what sets the mood — subtle symbolism mixes well into the story, which only adds to its unnerving feeling. There are definitely moments where the viewer will feel uncomfortable, as Romanek forces us to see Parrish’s thoughts firsthand.
The film’s flaw is that it does not explain the roots of Parrish’s insanity beyond his loneliness and does not help us feel for the Yorkin family enough. For many, their choices may be inaccessible. As a result, the viewer may be left feeling more sympathy with Parrish than any of his victims.
As Parrish says, it is the little details that make the difference and in Romanek’s One Hour Photo, this rings true.