One Hour Photo (Blu-ray)

June 4, 2013 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) has worked in photo department at SavMart for over a decade and in that time, he has made sure no one got back flawed photos. He takes his time and checks each print for color, contrast, and sharpness, even calibrating the machines to make sure the levels are never out of alignment. But while he cares for everyone’s photos, he takes a special interest in those brought in by the Yorkin family, Nina (Connie Nielsen), Will (Michael Vartan), and their young son Jake (Dylan Smith). Sy has been developing their photos since before Jake was even born and as such, he has watched this family grow and develop. But in this time, Sy himself has experience little in his personal life, as he has no friends, no family, and at home, his only pictures are of the Yorkins, prints he stole from work. As time has passed, Sy has latched onto the Yorkins as his own family, even imagining himself as Uncle Sy, even though the Yorkins know little about him, aside from his name and profession. Soon however, Sy begins to notice things about them, a book on trouble romances, a father’s stern treatment of his son, and even some photos that show that not all is well with the Yorkins. Even though he is just a photo clerk, he is determined to do more than look this time, but will his actions simply further the family’s decline?

As a fan of horror movies, I know that the scariest premises are ones that are grounded firmly in reality. That is to say, the more possible something is, the scarier it is and in One Hour Photo, the menace is almost all too real. This is because it is a man, not a monster or beast and not even a raving, insane man, instead a calm, lonely, obsessed man. We’ve all dropped off photos and I think most of us have wondered about the people who develop them, but this is a passing thought at best with most people. But in One Hour Photo, the ultimate in nightmarish results emerges through this well crafted character who takes some of his photos a little too seriously. The premise isn’t all that original, as I’ve read books and magazines articles about such a person, but the story unfolds in such a bold, yet realistic fashion, it stands out as unique. The visuals are dazzling, the performances are dead on, and the tension is thick, but it seems as if writer/director Mark Romanek ran out of steam toward the film’s conclusion. With such suspense and effective tension, I expected more of a satisfying ending, but the one found here is rather bland. Even so, the rest of the film is excellent and if nothing else, this one is worthwhile because of Robin Williams’ performance.

Although he is best known for his more comedic work, we all know Robin Williams can more than hold his own in dramatic roles. After all, he has had numerous acclaimed performances and even took home an Oscar, so we should have no doubts about this skills, whether in light or more serious material. But can he play an eerie, yet normal madman who obsesses over photos and withdraws from life on the whole? As seen in One Hour Photo, not only can Williams play this kind of role, but we never doubt him for a second. After the first time we see Williams as Sy, we know he is this character and the realism is almost scary, as Williams is phenomenal here and really pulls all the potential from the role. I mean, I knew he would be good here, but I had no idea he would be this good, this is another Oscar level effort from Williams. Other films with Williams include Mrs. Doubtfire, Insomnia, The Fisher King, Dead Poet’s Society, and Aladdin. The cast also includes Connie Nielsen (Rushmore, Mission to Mars), Gary Cole (Office Space, In the Line of Fire), and Michael Vartan (The Curve, Never Been Kissed).

Video: How does it look?

It’s been nearly a decade since I first saw this film in DVD and I remember being somewhat impressed with the stark whites in the transfer.  It was a visual appeal that really worked for the movie and something I really remembering as standing out.  Having said that, I had high hopes for this new Blu-ray and I have to say that I was a bit let down.  By no means is the image “bad” but I just expected it to be a bit better.  The transfer looks taken from an older master and while it’s still visually aggressive, I just didn’t feel it was indicative of a Blu-ray image.  That said the 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks good, just not great.

Audio: How does it sound?

A bit more impressive is the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack which really has a depth that I’d not expected. The musical score takes full advantage of the surrounds, immersing the audience in the haunting music, which adds a lot to the experience. The bass is deep here too, much deeper than you’d expect, given the material. The rest of the elements also come through in top form, but man, the music is simply outstanding in this mix. No problems with dialogue, as both normal vocals and Williams’ narration are crystal clear. This disc also includes French and Spanish language options, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I don’t know if they’re trying to make this a cult classic or not but all of the supplements from the previous DVD are included as well as some new to Blu-ray features.  I wish more Blu-ray’s had new features as opposed to the same thing recycled over and over.  We start off with an audio commentary as star Robin Williams and director Mark Romanek provide insight into One Hour Photo. The track is a nice mixture of information and humor, as Williams especially supplies some terrific comments. He discusses what it was like to play a darker character, but also interjects some humor into the session, while Romanek talks about his influences, the evolution of the project, and his thoughts on the final edition. You can learn even more about One Hour Photo via the included Charlie Rose Show interview with Williams and Romanek, who offer additional information here. The piece runs just over half an hour and is very worthwhile, as Rose brings up some interesting topics. This disc also includes a Sundance scene analysis, a brief behind the scenes featurette, three television spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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