One Hour Photo (2002)
Robin Williams is not well-known for his track record of film choices, unless you look at films like Good Will Hunting (1997), Insomnia (2002) and this little gem One Hour Photo (2002) which show that he really can act and when he has the right script in his hand. Taking on the role of a photo-lab technician whose fixation with a family takes on an unhealthy obsession.
On the surface Seymour Parrish (Williams) is a quite single man who enjoys his job, the photochemical process and the end results. With the added advantage of the repeat custom of a family who he has processes their photos ever since Nina and Will Yorkin (Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan) and their son Jakob (Dylan Smith). Over the years of valued and return custom he has built up a great rapport with the family who he has seen start as a couple and have a child. Through the happy photos he has processed he builds up an image of a happy family, the holidays, the birthdays and other events in their lives.
This could be seen as a happy coincidence of valued custom, or an obsession that produces and unhealthy obsession with a family he doesn’t really know beyond the encounters at the counter of his lab and the photos they bring to be developed. He is aware that photographs only capture the good times in life, not the bad ones we choose to forget. An idea he has taken to new extremes. Parrish’s obsession soon becomes clear as we see a loner emerge in the first 20 minutes, who has no-one in his life but the wall of photos, a life on pictures of a family. An album of a strangers life.
Stalking from a distance which soon takes a turn for becoming up close. Placing the audience in an awkward position as we see a disturbed figure’s blurred morality becomes all too real. He begins to cross the line of professionalism and obsessive behaviour which catches the attention of the store manager Bill Owens (Gary Cole) who has been doing his own homework and discovers his employees dodgy paperwork that has cost the company hundreds of dollars that ultimately costs him Parrish’s job.
This job loss send him over the edge in and into another state that we really saw coming. It’s the acts which we don’t expect. Inspired and disturbed by years of images that he has developed that have abused children his mind is sent into overdrive. With no other avenue he starts to see events earlier in the film in a new light that effect his favourite family. He feels compelled to intervene with devastating consequences, not just for the family but others.
The contributions to the world that photography has given to the modern age are boundless. And not without equal disadvantages. As much as we can capture happy events in our life with the click of a button, time is stopped for a moment and captured on film or a memory card to be processed later. Whilst it can be used to fuel the darkest desires of the unhinged, such as child-abusers, those who exploit others for personal gain and pleasure. For most of us we can not imagine such things. For those like Parrish who have little in their lives, these horrors can consume them, needing a disturbing vent to feel better, attaching themselves to others who are happy. Through images of happy moments, unaware of the other sides if family life. False images are created blurring his perception on life, which when made apparent send him over the edge.
Williams is on top form in this very immersive role that sees him transformed into a creepy loner who through finds photographs finds a vicarious happiness that will never be fulfilled. We see his downfall in spectacular style whilst most of the film is low-key with scary touches to remind you we are following a strange figure who you would never normally approach.
- Good Will Hunting Remastered With More Batfleck (reelgood.co.uk)