When art student Ben Willis is dumped by his girlfriend Suzy, he develops chronic insomnia after finding out how quickly she moved on. To pass the long hours of the night, he starts working the late night shift at the local supermarket. There he meets a colorful cast of characters, all of whom have their own 'art' in dealing with the boredom of an eight-hour-shift. Ben's art is that he imagines himself stopping time. This way, he can appreciate the artistic beauty of the frozen world and the people inside it - especially Sharon, the pretty and quiet checkout girl, who perhaps holds the answer to solving the problem of Ben's insomnia.Written by
Winnie Li===Corrected by Kate
In the Zola Budd flashback scene the young Ben in shown watching the 1984 Olympics. This puts the year of Ben's birth in the mid to late 1970s which would make him late twenties/early thirties in the present, but the adult Ben is clearly portrayed as an undergraduate student of about twenty. The ages would be correct if the main body of the film was set in the mid 1990s but to accept that would involve too many anachronisms (references to texting, Sainsburys uniforms, cars in the car park, etc.). See more »
It take approximately 500 lbs to crush a human skull. But the human emotion is a much more delicate thing. Take Suzy, my first real girl friend. My first real break-up, happening right in front of me. I never thought it was going to be similar to a car crash. I've slammed the breaks, and I'm skidding toward an emotional impact. So, is this all my fault? Me, Ben Willis. It's funny what goes through your mind at a time like this. The two and a half years we spent together. The ...
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Before the credits roll there's another video of Barry doing a dangerous BMX stunt. This time it works, though, and he doesn't fall flat on his face. See more »
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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