One Hour Photo

One Hour Photo is a 2002 American psychological thriller film[2][3] written and directed by Mark Romanek and starring Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, and Eriq La Salle. The film was produced by Catch 23 Entertainment, Killer Films, and John Wells Productions and released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

One Hour Photo
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Romanek
Produced byChristine Vachon
Pamela Koffler
Stan Wlodkowski
Written byMark Romanek
StarringRobin Williams
Connie Nielsen
Michael Vartan
Gary Cole
Eriq La Salle
Music byReinhold Heil
Johnny Klimek
CinematographyJeff Cronenweth
Edited byJeffrey Ford
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million
Box office$52.2 million[1]

The film premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, was given a limited release on August 21, 2002, and was given a wider release on September 13.[4][5] One Hour Photo received positive reviews from film critics, with praise for Romanek's writing and Cronenweth's cinematography, while Williams' against-type performance received universal critical acclaim, earning him a Saturn Award for Best Actor.[6] The film was also a commercial success, grossing $52.2 million against a $12 million budget.[1]


Seymour "Sy" Parrish (Robin Williams) is a photo technician at a one-hour photo in big-box store SavMart. He is a perfectionist, lonely and consumed by his work. His favorite customers are the Yorkin family, whose photos he has developed for many years. Over the years, he has grown obsessed with the family, enshrining them in his home with their photos that he secretly copies. However, as he is shy and socially inept, his attempts to become closer to the family are gently rebuffed.

Sy eventually manages to spark a connection with Nina Yorkin (Connie Nielsen) when he pretends to be interested in a book that he saw her purchase. Nina learns that Sy lives a solitary existence, something only her son Jake had considered previously. The next day, Sy is fired after the store’s manager Bill (Gary Cole) discovers that Sy has printed many more prints than have been ordered and paid for, as well as for spacing out on the job, taking 90-minute lunch breaks, giving Jake a disposable camera for free for his birthday, and for an altercation in public with a maintenance person on the developing machine.

While inspecting his photos for the last time, Sy discovers that Will Yorkin (Michael Vartan) is having an extramarital affair, and his idyllic conception of the Yorkins as the perfect family is shattered. He surreptitiously places the photos of Will and his mistress, Maya Burson (Erin Daniels), into a packet of photos that Nina was scheduled to pick up. Sy follows and takes pictures, paparazzi style, of Bill's young daughter, and sends them to Bill as a threat. Yoshi, another SavMart employee, discovers the pictures and turns them over to Bill, leading to a police investigation against Sy.

While detectives Van Der Zee (Eriq La Salle) and Outerbridge (Clark Gregg) discover Sy's obsession, Sy confronts Will and Maya during a rendezvous in their hotel room. Armed with a knife and a camera, Sy forces the lovers to pose naked in sexual positions while he takes pictures of them. After the confrontation, Sy sees that the police have arrived at the hotel and he escapes through an emergency exit. The exit door trips an alarm and Van Der Zee pursues him while Outerbridge discovers Will and Maya, physically unharmed but emotionally traumatized. The police apprehend Sy in the parking garage. Upon being arrested, Sy claims, "I just took pictures."

When Van Der Zee asks Sy why he terrorized Will and Maya, Sy says that he can tell Van Der Zee is a good father who would never take "disgusting, sick, degrading pictures" of his children, suggesting that Sy's own father exploited him for child pornography. Sy then asks for the pictures that he took at the hotel, which Van Der Zee described as "evidence." They appear to be only shots of objects and furnishings of a hotel room. The film closes with an enigmatic family picture of the Yorkins with Will's arm around a smiling Sy.



Trent Reznor, of the band Nine Inch Nails, composed the original film score, but Romanek opted not to use it. Some of the music evolved into the material on the Nine Inch Nails EP Still.[7]

In accordance with the photography-themed movie, the names of several characters are drawn from actual photographers: Sy's assistant at the Savmart, Yoshi Araki (named for Nobuyoshi Araki); Det. Van Der Zee (James Van Der Zee); Det. Outerbridge (Paul Outerbridge); Maya Burson (Nancy Burson); and Savmart customers Mrs. von Unwerth (Ellen von Unwerth) and Mr. Siskind (Aaron Siskind). In addition, the hotel at the end of the movie, the Edgerton, is also named for a noted photographer — Harold Eugene Edgerton.

In one of the voice-over pieces Sy can be heard to say "They actually believe that any idiot that attends a two-day seminar can master the art of making beautiful prints in less than an hour. But of course, like most things, there's far more to it than meets the eye." Robin Williams prepared for the role by training for two and-a-half days in a Southern California photo development lab.[8]

In an interview, Romanek said that he was inspired to create this movie by the films of 'lonely men' from the 1970s, notably Taxi Driver (1976).

In the DVD commentary, Romanek says that Jack Nicholson was first approached to play the lead character. Nicholson turned the role down reportedly because he thought the character was too similar to the role he played in The Shining.


Critical response

One Hour Photo opened to generally positive reviews, earning an 81% rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes based on 193 critic reviews; the average rating is 7 out of 10 and the consensus reads, "Robin Williams is very effective in this creepy, well-shot thriller."[9] The film's aggregate score at Metacritic is 64 out of 100.[10] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars and wrote: "Robin Williams plays Sy, another of his open-faced, smiling madmen, like the killer in 'Insomnia.' He does this so well you don't have the slightest difficulty accepting him in the role."[11] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the film is "not nearly as intelligent, thoughtful or penetrating as it promises to be. Yet the consistent delicacy and emotional clarity of Williams' acting in "One Hour Photo" makes the picture impossible to dismiss."[12]

Box office

The film's limited release began on August 21, 2002 in seven theaters, opening to a $321,515 weekend, with an average of $45,930 per theater. Its wide release began on September 13, with a 1,212 theater count. Still, the film made just over $8 million that weekend, and went on to gross $31,597,131 in the US, with an additional $20,626,175 in overseas territories, for an international total of $52,223,306;[1] this was a moderate box office success, as the budget was around $12 million.


Award Category Recipients Result
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Actor Robin Williams Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Actor Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Best Actor Nominated
Best Breakthrough Filmmaker Mark Romanek Won
Satellite Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Robin Williams Nominated
Best Editing Jeffrey Ford Nominated
Saturn Awards[13] Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated
Best Writing Mark Romanek Nominated
Best Actor Robin Williams Won
Best Supporting Actress Connie Nielsen Nominated
Best Music Reinhold Heil Nominated

See also


  1. One-Hour Photo
  2. Robin Williams' Movie Transformations Retrieved 31 January 2015
  3. Robin Williams, Who Died Monday, Brought Brutal Honesty To Roles - The Press-Democrat Retrieved 31 January 2015
  4. Germain, David (January 17, 2002). "Robin Williams turns menacing in somber Sundance thriller 'One Hour Photo'". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  5. Fischer, Paul (January 2002). "One Hour Photo". Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  6. "Past Saturn Awards". Archived from the original on 9 February 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2002.
  7. Trent Reznor (7 May 2004). "Access". Archived from the original on 6 January 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
  8. Maerz, Melissa. "Robin Williams, Juilliard-trained tiger". Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  9. "One Hour Photo Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 August 2002.
  10. "One Hour Photo (2002): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 August 2002.
  11. Roger Ebert (23 August 2002). "One Hour Photo". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  12. Mick LaSalle (23 August 2002). "One Hour Photo". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  13. "Past Saturn Awards". Saturn Awards. Archived from the original on 9 February 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2002.
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