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I attended the world premiere of "Cashback" at the Toronto
International Film Festival. I walked out in a daze. I had a feeling
I'd seen something special, that moment when you have to pause to take
a breath and reflect on what you've experienced. I still had about 20
films to go at the time, and "Cashback" raised the bar and became the
benchmark against which all the others would have to be compared. As it
turned out, nothing came close. Of the 30 plus films I saw that week,
"Cashback" tops the list.
Literally built around the short film of the same name which screened at festivals in 2004, triple threat writer/director/producer Sean Ellis did something ingenious. Rather than take his 20 minute piece and expand it to fill 90 minutes, he created a new Act One and Act Three to bookend a reworking of the original short in the center. And he pulled it off with a tour de force of light and sound. The result is an eerie, compelling twist on the classic Outer Limits episode where time stops while the protagonist weaves in and out of the frozen characters in another dimension. It may sound like sci-fi, but this is a sweet romantic comedy whose storyline is among the most original I've ever seen on screen. The concept is brilliant and the result magnificent.
The look is lush, cinematography by Angus Hudson breathtaking, and "Cashback" features an appropriately sweet score. They combine to give this low budget project a big movie feel, destined for the wide audience it deserves.
Most of all, I believe "Cashback" is the vehicle which will introduce newcomer Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood of "Harry Potter") to the world. His star tun in this film as protagonist Ben Willis left me speechless. The camera loves him, and he is on screen virtually from opening to closing credits. This film is his to make or break. It rests on his shoulders, and he owns the material.
As they say, you'll laugh, you'll cry, and I walked out with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. And no other film I saw at the Toronto Film Festival did that to me. "Cashback" is a sweet little masterpiece.
Having seen the film a few times, I can really say: 'I don't think there is a person out there who wouldn't enjoy watching this great piece. It's a formula that works beautifully. It is cool - without being pretentious. It is beautiful and sexy - without being cheesy. Very few films touch a chord in you. This film certainly does that. I think, those individuals who express a lot of negativity towards the film - have issues. Deal with them first - then watch the film. Being a regular cinema visitor and very familiar with the standard of films we get fed, I can happily and confidently confirm that this film is a gem that really shines!
What an intense and creative film this is and what a treat it was to
have the charming Sean Biggerstaff present it at the Stockholm
International Film Festival. He is proud of 'Cashback', and rightly so
for you will be pressed to find a prettier fantasy or funnier
characters in a film this year.
'Cashback' is director Sean Ellis' debut feature and he recreates the atmosphere of his same-titled short film with deft strokes, breathing life into a fantasy movie masking as a romantic comedy. Do not write it off on the basis of this negatively-connoted label, rather see it as a creative drama that delivers comedy by the bucketload. The fact is that 'Cashback' delves deep into the emotions of its protagonist Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff) much like a drama. It opens with his girlfriend dumping him, screaming and throwing things. In the following weeks, Ben suffers from insomnia and thus finds that he has eight extra hours at his disposal. To pass the time, he works the dreary nightshift at Sainsbury's.
The supermarket job is mundane at first but soon offers an outlet for Ben's creative side. As an art student, he learns to find the beauty in still images every second of the day. This includes the unspeakable beauty in a spilled bag of green peas on aisle four. It also includes freezing time and undressing women (Ben finds great source of interest in the female form), arguably the film's most intense sequences. Here there is a kind of seamless intercutting of scenes, scenery, flashbacks, reality and fantasy that all melt together fluently as the director navigates through Ben's life and thoughts. The latter soothingly narrates the course of events, which cements his likability as a central character.
The unspeakable beauty in the dreamy cinematography is rivalled only by the other side of the tapestry the comedy. I was rather unprepared for this diversion into hilarity, and expected Cashback to be a drama. Naturally, the amount of well-placed comedy floored my low expectations. In the front row for hilarity sits Ben's two colleagues at Sainsbury's, whom he introduces in brilliant ways. These are two dumb and goofy guys in their late teens who pass their time doing pranks and acting like idiots, such as smuggling sex toys in women's shopping bags at Sainsbury's and guffawing at the effect when she sees it and picks it up. The passing of time indeed proves a central theme in 'Cashback'.
But there is a wide array of noteworthy performances from the supporting cast, not just in Barry and Matt. Ben's boss also proves a massive crowd-pleaser and the level of seriousness which he applies to situations (such as the mighty football tournaments between supermarkets) is a goldmine for comedy. As ever, there is a romantic interest (Emilia Fox) a girl who works at the same supermarket during the same shifts who is the film's most likable and interesting character, bar none. My theatre audience also demanded Sean Biggerstaff on some info on this lovely actress.
It needs to be said that 'Cashback' is a sexually aggressive film with plenty of nudity and stories of sexual awakening. All women are also suspiciously attractive (it has often been brought up, beamed Biggerstaff in the Q&A session). It's funny, it's sexy and it's sweet puffed full of insights in Ben's narration. Better yet, it is a surprisingly ambitious film that strikes me more as a mainstream feature than quirky indie fare (if it wasn't for the nudity). For instance, the classical score is so epic and well-fitted that it sounds like it belongs in 'Gladiator' or any other high-profile sweeping epic. For that matter, Sean Ellis has worked in a homage to the latter at one point when the boss gives a rallying speech during the football tournament, telling his employers to think of him 'as Russell Crowe'.
The film has only two faults as far as I can see it: its wildly unfocused story and its slightly cheesy ending. The former did not prove a problem or a distraction, but rather made it feel like 'Cashback' attempted a lot of different story lines and detours and diversions. That said, I can see how it could be considered a problem. The ending discards some of the unpredictable magic by tipping into saccharine but it is nothing fatal. The fact is that Cashback is a remarkable film in both comedy and drama aspects and I urge you to watch it if you are even a slight fan of Biggerstaff.
9 out of 10
You find the most beautiful films when you least expect it. Yesterday I
went to the Sneak Preview in the local cinema and I came out happier
then I've been in weeks. Cashback is an odd combination of teen comedy
and romance and the best thing is that it works! The story involves
around Ben, an art student. He just had a rough (literally and
figurative) break-up with Suzy. Ben has problems to forget Suzy. He
can't sleep anymore and is emotionally broken. To speed up the eight
hours he used to sleep, he starts working night shifts at Sainsbury's.
The film follows Ben's process of dealing with his broken heart, while
he is working with his silly colleagues.
Effectively the film also tells the story about Ben's past which shows how his fascination with the female body began and how those things formed the way he thinks about things now. While working in the supermarket he likes to freeze time, to capture the beauty of little things, and to draw pictures of the (naked) female customers.
This film is not about sex and teen jokes as some people probably will say. It is about having a broken heart, finding new love, finding someone that is the perfect other half of you. It is about beauty. The scenes where everything but Ben is frozen and he walks around the store drawing the portraits of the women just strike the right chord. Sean Ellis did a great job to make those scenes look that perfect. It's his ode to the female body.
All I can say is that everybody should go and see this film. It's the best thing I've seen in a long, long time.
A guy and his girl break up. Painfully. As a result of this the guy
becomes an insomniac and suddenly finds himself with 8 more hours in
the day. 8 more hours in which he feels the pain of love gone sour. 8
more hours to be bored and restless. He decides to make the best of it
and starts working the night shift in a supermarket where he is met
with a new kind of boredom and several people that deal with that
boredom in different ways. Himself adding yet another way of dealing
with that boredom. He imagines he can stop time. What follows is best
seen instead of read about.
This film is filled to the rim with the most beautiful stills, completed with several speeds of motion and feels right. Right in an artistically way. It is like watching a painting being painted,, like watching a poem being written, like listening to a song being composed. And at the end it all adds up and the completed picture is seen in all its beauty. All in all a really nicely designed film that belongs in the small theaters and in the art-houses.
Next to that it is fun to watch. The adventures of the guy are interesting to follow, even though they aren't all that different from what most people go through at one or other stage of life. Music choice was very fitting and acting was good enough not to be falling out of place with the rest. So, all in all, a very pleasurable watch and something I can recommend to anyone.
9 out of 10 sketches sketched
Amazing camera work, wonderful acting, surreal characters in a very
interesting story. Who would throw these characters together in the
same story? An amazing stretch of imagination and story telling. Yet
somehow it all fits in a blissfully overwhelming joy of not really
knowing how it all happened but grateful that it did.
I could actually see this really happening except for the time shifting and the fact that all the women are stunning. The story rings true.
I felt at the end of the movie that the film maker had given me a glimpse of what it must be like to be an extremely talented artist in the midst of varying degrees of angst, joy, despair and creativity. Thank you for this movie.
There is a certain group of guys, that somewhere in the deepest part of their heart dream about similar stories full of the sensibility and feelings . Group of guys who are falling in love every day, on the tube, at the supermarket Who can freeze the time, and admire the beauty of an unknown woman. Guys who imagine in their heads hundreds of "what if" scenarios, but they hardly ever try to conquer their fate, being afraid of rejection. This movie is not only about these guys, but also for these guys. As I belong to the most radical part of this society, I have to say I loved it. There is a main character, who looks at the world through my eyes, the Sainsbury's venue is almost as absurd as the office that I work at, and the beautiful Sharon, is like the secretary of my boss. I cannot paint , but I write poems about her and hide them deep in my old office drawer.
There are few films that truly cause the minds of its viewers to wander and transcend from one thought to another. This film inspired me to take a second to think about what a second really is and to cherish moments for what they are. Its a breath of fresh air just waiting to be taken in and surely those with intellect just waiting to be toyed with will surely agree. Being a citizen of the United States, I am rarely exposed to films that contain intelligent dialogue and inspiring acting. Unfortunately my country is filled with bumbling fools who appreciate things exploding and pointless violence more than a beautiful story. Alas, films such as this one remind me that there is still hope in this dreary world and for that i am grateful.
This is actually a philosophical movie that tries to explain one of the
most eternal questions: "What is love?" The insight, thoughts and
descriptions in this subject, are very interesting.
With a lot of nudity, humor and nonsense, the movie is never boring, and always keeps you in touch with the characters and their thoughts.
Cashback depicts love as a very much OCD thing. An aching, never quenching drive and thirst for your loved one. Along with fulfilling each others dreams. Very romantic, maybe just a little bit too romantic and perfect. Then again maybe i'm the skeptic.
Enjoy, the thinking part will follow instinctively if you're a thinker.
Well written, well acted, well shot, interesting plot, thoughtful, and
several beautiful women in various stages of dress; what more could a
man want from a serious film.
I enjoyed this film overall about a coming of age. There were enough laughs to call this a comedy, but it was more than just that. I found Ben's "powers" to be interesting without suspending too much reality. I thought that the acting by Sean Biggerstaff to be very good. Nice to see him stepping out of Harry Potter and do well. The cast was very solid.
Overall, a good solid B- for this flick.
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