Sy Parrish is a sick man.
Sy “the photo guy” daydreams of entering strangers’ homes and watching football. He even uses their restroom facilities in his disturbed, twisted world.
Of course, they aren’t strangers to Sy. Rather, they are members of the family with whom he has been obsessed for almost 10 years.
You see, Sy develops their film at the one-hour-photo department at the local chain discount store a lÃ¡ Wal-Mart. Oh, and he’s lonely.
And while Sy knows every minute detail about the Yorkin family, we have a hard time recognizing him. Beneath those creepy eyes is a different Robin Williams than we’ve ever seen before – and one we may wish we never met.
One Hour Photo depends on Williams the way The Talented Mr. Ripley relies on Matt Damon, or Sling Blade with Billy Bob Thornton. Make no mistake about it, this film is a character study. And yet there’s more of a story present here than most films of this ilk.
Sy reminds us – well, those of us who have loved ones, and even a semblance of a life – how fortunate we are to have families.
Sy doesn’t have a family. He has a photograph of his mother. Of course, that’s just what he tells people when he shows them an old picture that he bought at an antique store.
Some can say this is all a fantasy for Sy. That he is so detached from reality, this is only something that Hollywood can concoct.
And yet, as we watch him, he seems more real and more ordinary than the people in the photos he develops and keeps for himself.
Photos are his life. Similar to how Jack abhors all material possessions in Fight Club, Sy’s narration throughout takes us into his world where his philosophy reigns supreme. The one where people would actually take photographs of the “used Band-Aid” or “the guy at the gas station.”
“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget,” goes his monotone mantra.
The film’s dialogue allows us to understand Sy’s sickness. Its methodic pace gives time for the audience to absorb why he is driven to a possibly violent act. We know that’s where this is going, and it serves as the as-climactic-as-it’s-gonna-get ending as well as the film’s arc, which begins and ends in a police questioning room.
Eriq La Salle plays interrogator to Williams’ best – and more candid – Norman Bates. He’s presumably candid because the coldness of the bare, all-white room is strikingly reminiscent of Sy’s own abode.
In fact, the only color in his apartment radiates from the livliness of his living room wall – collaged from edge to edge with photographs of the Yorkins.
Even the home of Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen) is filled with vibrant colors, contrasted to Sy’s grim existence, which looks like a 7-11 at 3 a.m. when the florescent lights’ filter goes out.
Nina is Sy’s best customer, and after seeing the discounts he gives her, it’s no wonder why. But her husband Will (Michael Vartan) isn’t keen on Sy’s creepiness and doesn’t want him talking with his son Jake (Dylan Smith).
But when Will’s own flaws are discovered, his desires are of little concern to Sy.
The message of the film is unclear. Sy is certainly not a hero. And while we do not root for him, we find ourselves compellingly enthralled in his every move.
One Hour Photo doesn’t exploit many grotesque images and isn’t gratuitous to any degree, yet it is not for the faint-hearted.
If Williams’ job was to assist in the film’s ultimate goal of creeping us out, then he is the most efficient worker in Hollywood. And while we can’t predict who develops our film, let’s just be glad that this guy only exists in celluloid.
It certainly will sway some people to go digital.
Contact Will Albrittonat firstname.lastname@example.org