"Sometimes love is hiding between the seconds of your life "After a painful breakup, Ben develops insomnia. To kill time, he starts working the late night shift at the local supermarket, where his artistic imagination runs wild.
I kept smiling like an idiot
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
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
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