Today the internet and column inches are awash with retrospectives and touching tributes to one of the film industry’s most loved actors and comedian.

The untimely and tragic passing of Robin Williams has caused an outpour of commendation for his numerous movie roles and philanthropic endeavours. Best known for his maniacal comedy, fast-talking word play, impressions and slap-stick physicality, we thought we’d take a look at one of his titles that showcased his true diversity as an actor.

In 2002, Williams broke out of his niche genre and starred in the truly-creepy One Hour Photo. Interestingly, this seemed to be the year for the star eschewing his comedic manner as he also starred in thriller Insomnia [2002]. However, for me, One Hour Photo hit the mark, despite going under the radar in comparison to his other Oscar-nominated roles.

At just an hour and a half long this low-key thriller from Mark Romanek creates a fantastic crescendo of fear and obsession, built out of an entirely mundane setting.

Seymour “Sy” Parrish (Williams) runs the photo processing department at a large discount store; Sy is dedicated to his job, and takes great pride in his work – he’s a loner and seems to live vicariously through the photos which he develops.

His favourite customers are Nina and Will Yorkin (Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan), an attractive and cheerful young couple with a nine-year-old boy, Jake (Dylan Smith). Sy dotes on the Yorkins and their son whenever they drop off film to be processed – something they’ve been doing quite often ever since Jake was born.

Nina and Will are indulgent of Sy’s attentions, disregarding him as a harmless eccentric.

What the Yorkins don’t know is Sy is a desperately lonely man with no real life of his own, and he’s been obsessively making copies of their photos, for years, imagining himself to be “Uncle Sy,” a member of the family. Sy’s tenuous hold on reality begins to collapse when he develops a roll of film brought in by a new customer that suggests Will has been unfaithful to Nina; the notion that his ideal family may be falling apart is troubling and what unfolds is a terrifying unravelling of Sy’s hidden demeanour.

Williams’ performance is stunning. Eerie and creepy, his portrayal of the character adds intensity to what could have otherwise been a bland plot to an average straight-to-video thriller. Williams recognises that the character of Sy is that of the ordinary – someone that we pass by in our daily lives never giving a second thought – unknowingly exacerbating this real-life monster. He is at times repugnant, and frightening – yet we still have sympathy for him. The actor captures this with a surprisingly restrained and calculated performance.

His stellar performance is supported by how immaculately shot each scene is. The carefully calibrated direction, mixed with Robin Williams’ representation of the over-looked man delivers a story of urban alienation which is utterly believable and chilling.

 

About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.