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A sweet little masterpiece
larry-41120 September 2006
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.
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"You just have to see that love is wrapped in beauty and hidden away in between the seconds of your life. If you don't stop for a minute, you might miss it"
volkstuintje28 May 2007
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.
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To see beauty in everything
Pascal Zinken (LazySod)25 January 2007
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
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I kept smiling like an idiot
Flagrant-Baronessa24 November 2006
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
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A rare film that really stands out!
ira200411 July 2006
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!
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Magic, simple genius with amazing perspectives
eadverts15 July 2007
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.
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What is love all about?
piotrusl-116 July 2007
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.
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Very deep and enlightening, and fun. Brilliant.
ubershmekel4 February 2007
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.
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What is beauty, what is to behold?
budder8213 July 2007
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.
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Drifting at times, has some moments, and with a rather magical closing
Harry T. Yung15 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This 2006 feature length movie began life in 2004 as a 20-minute short film that won a few awards as well as a nomination for an Oscar. Riding on its own success, the earlier version was expanded, retaining the two leads Sean Biggerstaff (playing Ben) and Emilia Fox (playing Sharon).

The story is what every teenage boy can easily identify with, about breaking up and finding love again. It may well turn out to be an American-Pie type of tasteless, sex- obsessed, mindless flick. In fact, it does have all the essential elements. But the movie makers cleverly balance them with aesthetic touched. While Ben, in his fantasy, freezes and undresses the shapely patrons in the supermarket he works in, we see him as an art student concentrating on sketching them as if they were nude models in the studio.

The movie is often slow to the extent of being telltale of its origin – that is, an expansion from a short film. But there are also inspired moments, such as the sequence of all the characters getting ready in front of a mirror for a big party. The ending shots are beautiful, closing the movie in a magical note.

Opera arias are used liberally for background music, something that seems to have become more and more popular in movies. In addition, to create a majestic mood (for comical effects, however), excerpts from "Jupiter" in The Planet Suite is heard when a soccer team falling behind 0 to 26 in the last minute of the game gets into a huddle vowing to score at least one goal before the game is over.

Despite the 9 years between them, the two British leads are splendid and do have chemistry between them. Sean Biggerstaff, who has appeared in a couple Harry Potter movies, brings out the charm of the introvert, easy-going young man Ben who has considerable artistic talent. Emilia Fox has a face and a persona that soothe rather than excite you, which is perfect for Sharon. She has appeared in The Pianist playing opposite award-winning Adrien Brody. She has also appeared in a couple of films between the two "Cashback"s, including Maggie Smith's "Keeping mum".
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tainted_perfection8 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'm usually not a big fan of romantic films but since this flick was highly recommended I decided to take a chance.And boy was I surprised! Cashback focuses on art student Ben Willis who had just had a stormy break-up with his girlfriend.Unable to get over it,he develops insomnia.To kill time,he starts to work at the local supermarket.There,his artistic side and his fascination of the female body starts to work overtime.There are also quirky characters such as Ben's two co-workers,an eccentric boss and a female colleague which he eventually falls for.Also not mentioning his promiscuous best friend.

Cashback has both elements of drama and comedy.The intensity of the film goes high but the comedy also reminds you to have a good time.The experiences faced by Ben are realistic and that's what makes this movie good.His ability to freeze time and undressing women in the supermarket adds something unique(wish i had that ability too)to this indie gem.Ben's colleagues at the supermarket are hilarious with their zany pranks..The love story between Ben and Sharon (his female colleague) unravels in the second half quite nicely at that.

There are some clichés however,only towards the ending but who cares?..Cashback was definitely a surprise, a unique perspective of life,love and everything between for Ben Willis.Worth-watching.
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Overall good flick
kwsand-120 July 2007
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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The current rating of the film (7.4) made me stop trusting IMDb
adnatan20 January 2012
The film is an utter waste of time, shallower than graphene. One of the many problems of this film is the gap between what it pretends to be, and what you actually get. There's an inconsistency in the flow, sometimes the film tries to be poetic (and fails), and a minute later it'll be a crude sex comedy similar to American pie. As a result, the two styles destructively interfere and you can't help but feel cheated. The script is just horrific. Uninteresting scenes get a lot of screen time, the level of depth is as mentioned before: shallower than the thinnest material known to mankind. If you are a teenager, you may not mind because of the multitude of silent beautiful nudes that appear there (with questionable justification). It made me feel that a random guy with a camera shot some nude models just because he could, and then he called it "art" to get away with it. I'd expect a rating below 6 for this one. The current rating of the film (7.4) made me stop trusting IMDb ratings...
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A superficial man's desperate attempt to seem "deep"
Chris D13 May 2008
This film is absolutely LAUGHABLE. It screams of a young art student's desperate attempt to say something meaningful but actually has only the dumbest, most base things to say.

The film's hilariously pretentious and meaningless tagline is "Sometimes love is hiding between the seconds of your life". Make no sense to you on a first read? Good, because it makes no sense after you have seen the film either.

The protagonist in this piece of drivel is an aspiring artist (of course he is) who works in a menial job stacking shelves at a supermarket (ah, the under-appreciation budding artists out there - breaks your heart, doesn't it?) To relieve the tedium of his job, he pretends he can "freeze time" and appreciate the beauty all around him. This is where the film really starts to bite. How does this insightful young man appreciate beauty? What wondrous things can he see that we ordinary folk fail to? Titties!!! Basically, he walks around mentally stripping women in the supermarket and contemplating their bodies. Hilarious. What a GENIUS!!! This wouldn't even be so bad if he was discovering some kind of "hidden beauty" or something all human beings share but is easily overlooked. But no! The only inhabitants of this Sainsbury are Page 3 bikini models! That's right - all perfectly formed, 19-24 year old stunners; waxed, toned and in perfect condition. One of the customers is even KEELEY - the famous Sun topless model. I mean you are JOKING, aren't you? This is a 13 year old boy's idea of "hidden beauty"!!! I won't bother discussing the rest of the woeful storyline that serves as a plot, suffice to say that when our young boy genius walks into a professional art gallery, the owner is immediately dazzled by his mediocre sketches and indicates that he has a big future. Yup, that's just how it happens in real life! If you find this movie interesting or profound, you truly are as ignorant and facile as the director.

Disgracefully bad.
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I want my cash back.. Unfunny, unoriginal and just plain bad.
candypants4217 July 2011
I'm sorry to say that this movie sucked. The characters motivations are either shallow or unconvincing and the unfunny jokes are made worse by horrible timing. The acting isn't great, and the dialouge is often just weird, but the worst thing about Cashback is the lack of originality. The whole movie relies far too heavily on alternating slow-motion sequences with fast-forwarding to illustrate the main characters insomnia, which, by the way, is thoroughly unconvincing. While that could've been OK if they at least were the first to do it, it sadly seems that all of the potentially interesting aspects of the plot and aesthetics of this movie are copied.

If someone made a movie with footage from Go!, Fight Club and Art School Confidential, and edited it into a love-story completely devoid of chemistry, with no redeeming features, this would be it.

And don't buy into the crap about "breathtaking beauty" either; some of the scenes look OK, but nothing spectacular. Do yourselves a favor and watch something worthwhile instead. Or if you're here for the nudity, watch porn.
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erratic, uneven, with moments of pure genius
A_Different_Drummer26 August 2015
Sean Ellis loves women.

Never met the man, probably never will, but that was the #1 takeaway from this uneven but thoroughly interesting film.

Lots of layered construction in the story.

Borrows from the Forgetting Sarah Marshall meme, starts with the protagonist losing his main love, that is the setup for all that follows.

Borrows from THE GIRL THE GOLD WATCH AND EVERYTHING, using the "time freeze" technique to sync up the viewer and the exposition.

Borrows from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, using a probing sort of voice-over to fill in the uneven parts of the story, as with the time freezing (see above) But most of all, when you leave the theatre (or turn off the DVD) if you think about this film at all -- and you may -- what you will remember most are the orations on the beauty of women and the joy of discovery thereof, along with related ideas on how the nature of the female form may not itself be the original art form...? Very uneven -- all the fun parts are off the top, by the half-way point you might be excused for thinking you had stumbled into a regular run of the mill romcom.

Fox steals her scenes, exactly as one might expect.
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Stupid, simpering, sexist and dumb
The_Film_Cricket24 March 2011
Cashback is one of most cynical, sexist and finally insulting movies that I've seen in many moons. I can only hope that it is many more moons before I see its like again – maybe an eclipse just for good measure. This is a movie that tries to be a sex comedy, a love story and bittersweet love letter to the female form. It comes off like the kinds of things a 13 year-old would draw in his notebook when his parents aren't looking.

The movie's hero is Ben Willis, a teenager who has just been dumped by his girlfriend Suzy for reasons we never understand. He talks to us through narration all through the movie and our only glimpse of their problem comes from her tongue-lashing of him which is seen in slow motion. We don't even get to hear what she's saying over Ben's narration.

Ben talks all the time. We hear his theories on art, on women and on relationships, which leave a lot to be desired. He takes us back through the early years of his sexual awakening, mostly to things that we really don't want to know. Did we want to know that when he was a kid, his mother caught he and his best friend with erections and assumed they were gay? Did we want to know that he paid a neighbor girl $50 to lift her skirt to see her nethers? This is what he talks about.

Deep in despair and suffering from insomnia, Ben takes a night job at a grocery store where he works with a bunch of obnoxious goofs who perform pranks and stunts that could and should get them fired. But, no they're too endearing to the manager for that. Also there's a nice girl Sharon, the only girl in the movie that isn't focused on as a sex object or a screaming bitch. She's there to provide a love interest.

Anyway, while working at the store, Ben makes a discovery that - are you ready for this? - he can stop time.

It is never made clear exactly why he is able to stop time or if it is all in his mind. At any rate, during the time stops at the store he goes around and undresses the female customers so that he can draw their naked bodies. If this sounds like a felony, it is made even worse by the fact that the director plays this violation as if Ben were making some deep artistic statement. What is even worse is that all of the female customers are young and curvaceous with firm backsides and large breasts. Don't get me started on the fact that they're all white, nor the fact that these gorgeous women seem to have converged on the same supermarket in the middle of the night. This is a movie that only pretends to be about something.

Ben's moments of pseudo-philosophy about his good reasons for gawking at large breasts are off-set by a cast of characters that make us want to leave the room. Their conversations are all about getting laid or past conquests to get laid, strippers, hookers or getting liquored up. They bungle around like 13 year-olds on caffeine. The men in the movie are sex-starved animals and the women are either strippers, prostitutes or objects of lust. This movie is an equal opportunity offender.

Director Sean Ellis flatters himself by making statements that are supposed to be meaningful and only come off as smarmy and crass. Ben has a lot of things to say but none of them are profound or genuine if you are really paying attention. Example: "I've always wanted to be a painter, and like many artists before me, the female form has always been a great source of fascination. I've always been in awe of the power they posses." That's followed by scene after scene of humiliating comic sex jokes that poke statements like that in the eye.

I think the moment that aggravated me most was the moment in which the idiots at work play a cruel joke on him by calling and pretending to be the owner of a famous gallery who is interested in his work. When poor Ben shows up for the appointment, naturally the man has never heard of Ben. BUT he wants to see the kid's work and offers him an exhibit of his work. Yeah. Sure. Uh-huh. You bet. Never happen, not in this life or the next. Much like my next viewing of Cashback.

* (of four)
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About as intelligent as a nude porn mag.
axlrhodes3 February 2011
I recently watched the 17 minute short of Cashback and for the life of me, i cannot explain the 7.5 rating on IMDb. The film is just an adolescent, leery production that was no more intelligent or thought provoking than flicking to page 3 of a UK red top newspaper. The dialogue about the clock watching i could identify with but the overall message is grotty and ill conceived. In a world where beauty is seen mostly seen as only being skin deep, this film does nothing to dispel or encourage any other kind of thinking. The film thinks it's being clever but anything but. Its obvious and foul in the way it looks at how men view women as nothing more sex objects. This is the film equivalent of six builders having a tea break,wolf whistling and shouting like apes at any unfortunate young female passer by. If this film struck a chord with you, you're the sort of person i don't want to know. Awful, awful , awful!!!
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I grooved to it
slake093 August 2007
Our hero is a dorky art student, newly and painfully broken up with his girlfriend, attempting to find something to fill his sleepless nights. He goes to work at a grocery store, where his imagination and eccentric coworkers help him through the breakup and put a little romance back into his life.

There is some artistic nudity, where our protagonist sketches various men and women in the buff; none of it seems gratuitous, it's just one more part of the film. I'm a big fan of artistic nudity, although I have to admit I've never been able to get chicks to strip down in the supermarket as they do in this film. It's a talent, certainly, that every man could use.

Overall, it's a slightly offbeat romantic comedy of the sort we could use more of. Not formulaic, not predictable, but enjoyable and entertaining. I watched it with my girlfriend, who refused to pose artistically afterwards, but you can't have everything. I've noticed that romantic movies don't necessarily translate into romantic activities for the people watching them; there should be a category of movies that does so, although I don't know what it would be.

All in all, it's a good date movie, good couch movie, just a good movie to watch when you're in the mood for something lighthearted and quirky.
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Pseudo-academic misogyny
jamie_windsor14 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw the short, I wondered if it was a subtle political statement about dominant/passive relationship of post-modern patriarchal culture in pseudo-academic circles. My optimism soon dispersed.

Some argue that the protagonist is flawed as most people are, but he is presented as the hero and not as a flawed character. I would guess he is a projection of the filmmaker's own view of women.

He fixates on a shallow view of "beauty" represented in what appears to be fashion-model happy hour at the local supermarket — classic lad's mag fodder. As if this wasn't enough, we are taken into his fantasy world where he undresses (I say "undresses" — what actually happens is he pulls up their tops and down their underwear to reveal breasts and genitals) these women in secret and without consent. He furthers this by becoming obsessed with the checkout girl whom he then proceed to secretly draw in various states of undress and then exhibits the picture (again, without her consent) in a public exhibition. In any normal scenario, we would label this character a sex-offender but apparently this is all hopelessly deep and romantic.

We have a short section with a nude man in a life class, but this is ridiculed as the man keeps passing wind (yes — this is the level of sophistication this film offers). Our protagonist instead draws the stereotypically "lad's-mag" attractive girl across the room.

Beyond all the sexism, the film is badly made. The characters are one- dimensional and the script is disjointed. There's some nice cinematography but that's about all I can say in its favour.

This film is an appalling piece of cinema that reinforces the outdated and sexist notion that women are primarily about body and that beauty is defined by nubile, young women in states of undress.
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Finding Beauty
tedg15 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Finally, a successful, cinematic guy date movie. Well, sorta.

Its a great cinematic experience. That's primarily what I liked and what I talked about.

To make this a success, they added two other, rather unrelated parts. One is the amusing secondary characters they insert to make us laugh and to divert attention. This is so common these days that we expect it in big studio productions. It's even written and sometimes directed by someone other than the original filmmaker. Here is it blatantly inserted. We allow it because it is amusing. We laugh. But it does actually distract from the really cool value this thing has to offer.

The second thing is the date movie form. I do not know if this was in the original short or not. It is dismayingly formulaic: guy falls for and wins girl; guy loses girl because of misunderstanding; guy wins girl back in public. Its more than just boring, its a concession to the ordinary that undermines the whole project. Shame on the filmmaker. The one concession is that unlike the amusing guys in the background, this is somewhat integrated into the special stuff.

That special stuff is the notion of art, a notion of an artist (much mentioned here) whose gift is to see beauty in ordinary things, reveal it to the woman (if she is the beauty) — which is a wondrous thing indeed, and to convey it to others.

It is, in fact true of both our main character and the filmmaker. In the film, the deal is that a young artist is so bereft from losing his girlfriend that he starts to see the work in cinematic terms — and novel cinematic terms at that. He is able to "stop time" and examine the intrinsic beauty that happens to have appeared. Once this is a bag of spilled peas. Usually it is the women who visit the store to shop at night.

Now, there is a cheat here. All of the women. Every one of the women, even an older art gallery owner (who, in self-referential mode is the film's producer), are beautiful in a spectacularly obvious way, without special glasses. Yet, we loss over that because the narration (who is cinematically reified) makes clear that the eyes through which we see this are the eyes of an artist who:

— desperately wants to see beauty to make his life worth living.

— specifically thinks women's bodies are the ultimate expression of perfect beauty

— has the ability to enter a scene outside the film, freezing it so as to examine it for its beauty and capture it in drawings.

Hence, we see him as a young boy, encountering the visual mysteries of special surfaces and places. We see him internally as discussing the nature of bodily encounter with his typical but goofy friend. And we see him exploring his environment as we men often do: undressing the women around us in search of those heavenly forms and expressive offering through being. We actually see him undressing them, which is the cinematic shock. It worked for me. It mattered. I would have climbed mountains to know this vision if I knew what it would be.

Bless this filmmaker for having such a perfect visions — one that I would call voyeuristically folded, one that seems visually novel. Shame, shame on him for tarting it up with ordinary stuff to make it palatable to those who shouldn't matter in the world.

Celebration and shame. Love of women and discomfort for looking so deeply. Being intrinsically lonely and being reminded so.

Perfect. When it comes to couples, perfect.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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bringing film-making back to its roots - charming, romantic and hilarious
hollywoodguru29 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
we caught this at the AFI - i can't stop raving about it.

i was really touched by this film - my girlfriend and i were rolling in hysterics and the ending will bring tears, i promise.

this is a debut from a new young director from england - i heard the budget was really low - amazing camera-work, hilarious dialogue and the casting is fantastic - where did they find the supermarket characters?! i subsequently found out about the short film which i checked out on iTunes afterwards - for those that are curious, no they are not the same film - the short film is like an elongated trailer for this feature - one of the best feel-good films i've seen in a long time this movie is too good to miss and will relate to anyone that knows the true value of daydreaming!

lets hope the director and producer get the credit they deserve
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The two meanings of crush…Cashback
jaredmobarak18 August 2007
Upon seeing the much talked about 2004 short Cashback a couple years ago, I was utterly blown away. I checked out Sean Ellis quickly after to see what was next on his slate. To my surprise, it was a feature length version of his brilliant short. I didn't know what to think, how could he hope to enhance what worked so well in 25 minutes? How could he risk ruining the beauty and magic of what he had? To my shock, he not only kept the stunning visual flair and emotive compositions, freezing beauty and time, he enhanced it completely. The film Cashback is a pure work of art to be viewed with a gallery mentality. This is not a movie to be taken lightly, but a piece of art to behold with wonder and thought. It is a journey through the meaning of love and the beauty of everything around us.

Our story involves an art student named Ben who has just experienced a bad breakup with his first real girlfriend. The thoughts running through his head and the void that the departure has made in his life causes him to be unable to go to sleep. Not able to deal with the extras hours of torture, making him stew in the memories that were long gone, he takes a job working the night shift at a local supermarket. Why not get cash back for his traded extra time? While his co-workers deal with the monotony of eight hours by avoiding the clock, fooling around, or messing with the customers—"helping the ladies" is a hilarious game of theirs, with fantastic payoff at the end—Ben finds that his way to get through time's sluggish pace is to stop it altogether. He freezes time and space so that he can spend it looking at the beauty that is reality. The still-lifes of life itself are there to be looked at if one takes the time and effort to do so. Being that the female form has always been an inspiration of beauty to him, he starts using the women customers, in suspended animation, as his models to hone his drawing and painting skills. Amidst everything, he and his co-workers take a journey together in life and its cyclical nature and run-ins with coincidence and fate. When Ben falls for his friend Sharon, his world opens back up and he sees what it is to truly be alive.

The plot is simple yet deep in scope. There are many ideas being put out there, but it is not the words of our characters that help express them. Ellis has chosen to give us a mostly silent film, where the visuals are the real impetus and force behind its progression. Told with voice-over throughout its duration, the audience is allowed to bask in the mesmerizing moments put to film. Between his wonderful transitions from present to past recollections of childhood, seamlessly panned over from timeframe to timeframe, to the living paintings walked through by Ben, to the breathtaking slow-motion sequences, you will be transfixed and unable to divert your eyes from the screen. His use of light and glares on the women he allows to fill the frame is amazing and almost every single second could be paused and put on display as photographic artwork. Some of the compositions and use of mise-en-scène are astounding. From the fearless framing of empty space while the focal point is just standing in the corner, to the use of the scene's environment to create space, either Ellis or his cinematographer, or both, is a genius. I keep thinking of the moment Ben is drawing Sharon at the checkout line, the frame is 95% filled with the white of the back of his pad, only the tiny triangle of space in the top left corner allows his face to be visible.

There really is nothing aesthetically bad I can think of saying. Cashback is as visually stunning a film as I have ever seen, and coming from a first time director is all the more impressive. With all that said, though, the movie is definitely not for everyone. The prudish should stay away because there is a lot of nudity throughout. I would say that while almost all of it is tastefully done and likened to a gallery setting where nudes are the norm, it could still be uncomfortable for some unused to it being so prevalent. The female form is never really exploited here and never used to titillate. It is a fill-in for the beauty in the world that people just don't take the time to seek out anymore. Each composition containing the curves of a woman's body is a sight in its own right. Ellis had a vision and he nailed it completely.

All the acting is good as well, especially our leads Sean Biggerstaff as Ben and Emilia Fox as Sharon. They both film effectively and the silent moments of their faces emoting their feelings for each other only enhance the story rather than slow it down in pacing. All the supporting players are great also, adding some wonderful moments of levity and helping keep the movie's tone from being too dramatic. Again, though, these characters are only vessels being led around to show us the love in the air; it is their actions that speak louder than words ever could. I don't know whether Ellis refilmed the moments from his short or just used the original footage, but it all keeps the same aesthetic and feel. Those minutes are used almost completely in the first hour, which is surprising because the final act is so well done and cohesive with the start. The final scene at the gallery and outside is just plain gorgeous and puts a fitting conclusion to a masterpiece of style.
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Insomnia Rules
kenjha24 May 2008
After breaking up with his girlfriend, an art student can't sleep (for weeks!) and finds a job at an all-night supermarket in London. He also has this amazing power to freeze the world (at least in his mind) so he can take his time drawing what interests him, mainly the naked female form. Biggerstaff is likable as the young man with insecurities while Fox nicely plays the lovely lass he meets at work. The stylish direction of Ellis, who also wrote the story, expanding a short he had made a couple of years earlier, infuses the film with a sense of freshness. There is a memorable flashback scene featuring the artist as a young boy and a Swedish exchange student.
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Has an interesting premise, and some entertainment value.
TxMike18 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone offended by frank and explicit female nudity, from several different angles, should avoid this movie, even though it is a romantic comedy.

Set in England with British actors, the title has two references in the movie, which takes place largely in a supermarket and among its employees. When customers pay with some type of debit card, they are asked if they want any "cash back." Also, character Ben Willis, in art college, can't sleep after his girlfriend dumps him, so he gets a night shift job at the supermarket, making use of that otherwise useless 8 hours, and for his efforts gets "cash back."

Also, two years prior to this feature length movie was the original award-winning 18-minute short film "Cashback", so this movie is the lengthened version of the same story.

Sean Biggerstaff is Ben Willis, art student who gets dumped. The cashier at the supermarket is Emilia Fox as Sharon Pintey, and they take a liking to each other. Really beautiful Michelle Ryan, who briefly starred in the US TV series "Bionic Woman", is Suzy, the girlfriend who dumps Ben.

The movie has a very unique premise, Ben can seemingly stop time, where everything around him freezes until he puts his hands together and "cracks" his fingers. For a few minutes, or days. Having been curious since a small boy about the female figure, he stops time in the supermarket and partially undresses the pretty ladies and draws them, and of course putting all their garments back in order before he resumes time.

It is not totally clear whether he is really stopping time, which would be a fantasy element, but it appears that he is, otherwise he wouldn't have had time to draw all the nice, complex drawings he made.

Very interesting and entertaining movie, if seeing female nudity doesn't bother you.
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