Trust nobody, even those who provide such simple services as developing that roll of film from your beloved child's birthday party. You never fully know the lives of those who provide the basic needs of life, and what you overlook could be highly dangerous. The supposed innocuousness of those only tangentially connected to you in daily activities is an interesting premise to start with, but One Hour Photo falls short of revealing anything intriguing about human nature. After a fascinating starting point, it follows the straight and narrow of easily recognizable human flaws, practically boring itself in the process with one punctuated brooding scene after another.
See, Sy (Robin Williams) is the friendly neighborhood photo developer. He leads a lonely life, but finds solace in the happy portraits he's produced for his customers over the past 11 years. Becoming specifically attached to the Yorkins (Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan) because Nina has actually smiled and yapped with him, his obsessive tendencies are pushed into high gear when he finds their home isn't as picture perfect as it seems.
Why must all interesting ideas run into the same entertainment blockade of not trusting an audience to think for themselves? If you have Robin Williams playing a quiet psychotic, why not let the images remain unsettling without throwing in the "scary score" to lead you down the uneasy paths of psychosis? We haven't seen Robin Williams play the antagonist in a film for a while (though he will in the upcoming Insomnia as well), so why not let that build to take advantage of the creepiness of voyeurism, instead of carrying an audience through the process with heavy-handed, unnecessary voiceover?
Having criticized the film's approach to capturing human nature, admittedly Williams fills the role with better ease than expected. If all the technical forces of musical scoring and narrated dialogue had been obliterated, One Hour Photo would have been more compelling in its exploration of motive. It's not his fault the intended thrilling effect doesn't work. His mental deficiencies would also have been more interesting if he were mistaken about Will's extracurricular activities.
The remaining characters don't get a chance to shine, coming across as cardboard characters uttering lines they've dutifully memorized. It's almost understandable, though unfortunate, that Will would seek pleasure elsewhere if only because no particular chemistry is felt in glance or word with Nina. While it's admirable to explore the fractured idyllic dream, it's another to throw it together for the sole purpose of giving the main character something to do.
Though nicely shot, with a few pleasant photographic details thrown in, and containing a deranged lead role, One Hour Photo doesn't follow through on the complexities it tries so hard to achieve. It's never boring, but it doesn't heighten adrenaline either. It's a decent vehicle for Williams to stretch his acting limbs, but one that, surprisingly, can't keep up with him.