A Genre and Narrative Anaylsis of One Hour Photo (Romanek, 2002) Essay

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A Genre and Narrative Analysis of One Hour Photo (Romanek,2002)


What defines a thriller? There are generic elements, but no real strict guidelines for filmmakers. This means that they can play around with hybridity and innovation within their creation. One Hour Photo contains many genre conventions of a typical thriller. It complies with thriller conventions through: creating suspense and excitement for the audience the narrative revolving around investigation of an enigma/puzzle. having one of the settings be a suburban home having the hero (depending on your point of view) be an outsider, isolated, secretive but moral.

In these ways it does comply with thriller conventions, but in other ways, it doesn't.
Some of the conventions it rejects are: the enigma of the narrative will be solved by the end of the film. (some questions are answered, but lots are left.) revealing the workings of particular institutions such as the police (etc). The police are only in the narrative for a few minutes; their involvement was not central to the enigma of the movie. violent crimes are central to the narrative. The amount of violence is insignificant compared to other thrillers. There is only one brief knife scene, but nothing central.

Comparing from both view points, we can see that One Hour Photo was made to be part original, and part generic. This is because, as an audience, we need generic components to understand what we are seeing, but we also need originality; the narrative has to be fresh and interesting. Otherwise, the audience would be watching the same thriller over and over again, lessening the appeal, and ticket sales for future films would plummet.

One Hour Photo offers a hybridity of genres: thriller, drama, crime, mystery and suspense. It effortlessly blends five genres together to peak the interest of as many target audiences as possible. The target audience for a thriller is usually young adults 15-25, and adults, since they tend to find the puzzle element more interesting than other audience groups. However, due to this diversity in genres, other audience groups may also be interested in the premise of this film (and then go to see it in the cinema).


Sy (Robin Williams) is central to the narrative. Because he is such an ambiguous character, the director (Mark Romanek) thought it essential that the audience's natural alliances should be conflicted. Do they feel empathy for Sy? Or do they think he is just too creepy? There is no real answer. This idea is especially prominent in the scene where Sy finally gets to meet Will Yorkin (Michael Vartan). Dramatic Irony is used as a narrative device to create more tension between these two acquaintances. As an audience, we have seen Sy's obsession with the Yorkins first hand, but Will has not. Will's reaction to Sy's compliments of his personal life are crucial in this scene; it ultimately determines what the audience thinks of Sy. The director and actor are both aware of this importance in audience opinion, so as a result Will accepts the compliments, but with a pensive face, ultimately not deciding whether he is a threat or just nice. This neutrality makes sure the audience can draw their own conclusions about Sy's character, and whether he is worthy of being the 'hero' of the narrative (even though he is the protagonist, being a hero is different from being the main character.)

Some may argue that Sy must be the hero because he unravels the enigma of the narrative (a convention in thriller movies). Sy also kept Jake's (Dylan Smith) family together (the reason why is left to the audience) and that is a heroic act. On the other hand, others would retort that because of the way in which he preserved Jake's family is not heroic. Either way, the narrative does not decide for the audience. The narrative interacts with the audience by making them feel sympathy for Sy (his desire to be part of their family at christmas) and make us shocked at him…