If you think back fifteen years ago, we had travel agents who planned our vacations, movie rental stores, phone books, and one-hour photo places. The latter has become almost completely obsolete. Even with CVS stores, people mostly use the in-store computers to print out their photos or transfer them to a disk. Nowadays, we have digital cameras and phones with cameras that take pictures, which we can instantly upload to any mobile device, computer, printer, or social network for our friends and family to see.
Instead of breaking out the dusty, large photo albums for our select friends to see our most intimate and fun moments in life, we now look at people's phones or social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to see other people's photos, which are available for virtually anyone to see at the click of a button, not just your friends and family. This evolution in the photographic realm has made this eerie thriller a little outdated but none-the-less effective and haunting. Eleven years later, Mark Romanek's 'One Hour Photo' proves to be a chilling and unnerving tale of a lonely man who is obsessed with a notion of the American Dream.
The film revolves around Sy Parrish (Robin Williams), a long lasting photo lab employee of Savmart, which is clearly based on a Wal-Mart type of business. Savmart has bright white fluorescent lights that beam a bright and dull light on the clear polished white floors, where everything looks to be flawlessly placed on shelves with no room for error or mistakes. When you walk into Savmart, you feel like you are in a doctor's office where everything is clean and polished and it makes you not want to touch anything.
This place resembles Sy's life as he drives a white car, doesn't partake in any employee conversations, has no friends or family, and lives in an apartment with one television and one chair where he spends his evening watching television in an emotionless state. He lives his life and tries to garner an emotion or two through the photos of his customers at Savmart, as he sees and develops each and every photo that comes through. Sy has taken a particular and obsessive interest in a family named the Yorkins who seem to lead a normal and happy suburban life.
The father, Will (Micharl Vartan) owns his own business, drives a nice car, and provides for his family, while his beautiful wife Nina (Connie Nielsen) tends to their ten-year old son Jake (Dylan Smith) who loves school and sports. Sy has been developing their camera film for a number of years and they even call him Sy the Photo Guy. Sy has memorized their address, birthdays, and even gives young Dylan birthday presents. However, once we see the one wall in Sy's apartment that has an object on it, we see that it is a floor to ceiling collage of the Yorkin's family photos in chronological order from when they first started getting their film developed. Sy takes the creepiness a step further by walking Dylan home from soccer practice without the knowledge of his parents, reading the same books the family does so that he can have something in common to talk with them about, and telling how much he think's they are a lucky and good family.
However, this notion of the Yorkin's being the perfect family that Sy has been obsessing about is ruptured when he witnesses some off-putting actions by members of the family, which send Sy off the deep end on a revenge plot to heal his childhood wounds and his own conscious. Even when we first meet Sy, we immediately feel he is more than just a lonely guy, but rather a deeply disturbed man who is capable of being extremely dangerous to others. And it makes us think, would we want this guy looking through our photos online in present day? It's a haunting impression that this film leaves us in present day.
Romanek did an amazing job of making this eerie thriller very unorthodox and original as we see the film through the antagonist rather than his subjects. Instead of the film showing you a disturbing image up front and leaving you terrified, it goes for the slow and deeply unsettling approach as we are the actual lenses of this crazy man through his obsessiveness. The results are something nightmares are made of. Robin Williams takes an amazing turn here as the bad guy, which was the start in the early 2000's of his darker run of films, and it still proves to be one of his best. He plays a deeply disturbed and socially awkward citizen flawlessly. At no point do we see the funny and wildly comedic Williams here. Instead we want to cover our eyes and run in the other direction when we see him. 'One Hour photo' still holds up today and stays with us long after viewed, even if it feels a little outdated.
'One Hour Photo' comes with an unsatisfying 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For this being the first time the film is on Blu-ray, I hoped they would have cleaned up the image and made a nice pristine look, just like Savmart in the film. That's not the case here. Nothing looks cleaned up. It seems to be a copy of a copy from an old transfer of the film. Was the negative lost or something? What gives? Dirt and specks pop up throughout as well as some slight image shaking.
The film has a layer of grain with some slight image banding. Colors definitely look good here, from the fair colors of the Yorkins home to the bright white colors of Savmart. It's always refreshing to see the green grass on the soccer field and blue skies as we tend to stay inside and confined to non-nature colors. Detail seems to be a bit of improvement here, mostly in closeups that show better detail in faces, but overall looks softer than it should. This should have had a better video presentation, not one that resembles a copy of a copy.
Fortunately, this release comes with a solid lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. The dialogue is crystal clear and is always easy to understand. This track is mostly situated on the fronts, but has some great moments of ambient noise and sound effects that play through the surrounds. The score by Reinhold Heil and Jonny Klimek sound great and haunting at the same time. The bass from the music rumbles low to push that suspense and uncertainty at key moments in the film.
The directionality is good here and there was no evidence of any pops, cracks, or hissing. This is a solid audio mix without over staying its welcome and is far superior to the video presentation of this disc.
'One Hour Photo' still proves to be a disturbing film with one hell of a performance from Williams. The taste that this film will leave in your mouth will last for days and spark conversation with others. The video presentation is very disappointing, however the solid audio presentation, the abundance of some amazing extras, and the film itself still make this a solid purchase. Recommended.