Finally, a master work from a true auteur! From Britain comes Sean Ellis’ excellent film Cashback, a near-perfect blend of romantic comedy and drama complemented with a touch of uniquely English sense of humor. Like life itself, Cashback is a fleeting, vibrant and bittersweet experience, with its ups and downs masterfully acted out and captured on celluloid thanks to stellar performances from everyone involved. Expertly written and executed, the film benefits from top-notch visual composition and cinematography as well as a great soundtrack – elements that are effectively combined to take the audience on a highly personal, original and profoundly beautiful journey.
Having suffered a traumatic break-up with his girlfriend Suzy (Michelle Ryan), art school student Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff) develops insomnia, which leads him to take a night shift job at a local supermarket. It is here that Ben meets his new colleagues Barry (Michael Dixon), Matt (Michael Lambourne) and Brian (Marc Pickering); manager Jenkins (Stuart Goodwin); and the beautiful cashier Sharon (Emilia Fox), on whom he soon develops a crush. At this point, Ben’s artistic imagination begins to run wild as he finds himself bored for long periods of time and starts having fantasies about the supermarket’s female customers. Fascinated by the feminine form since childhood, Ben decides to pursue his passion for art and develops an uncanny ability to temporarily stop time. This allows him to walk around the supermarket undisturbed, undressing the women shoppers at leisure, and drawing them nude in his sketchbook before putting back on their clothes and cracking his fingers to make time start again.
While Ben busies himself with this new artistic pursuit to the slow, melodic beats of Icelandic rock group Bang Gang’s “Inside”, both manager Jenkins and Barry begin to show interest in Sharon. Hence Ben is forced to take notice and hurry up with making his move, which he does shortly before Jenkins’ birthday party. Things go well until, at the lavish event complete with a private strip performance, Ben unexpectedly bumps into Suzy while a drunken Jenkins makes futile attempts to convince Sharon to go up to his room. Moments later Sharon sees Suzy give Ben an impulsive kiss and storms out of the party.
At times beautiful, at times comical and at times lightly nostalgic, Cashback is visually arresting throughout, with each frame and shade of color carefully crafted to produce a highly atmospheric work rich in detail and mood. Ben’s thoughtfully worded remarks such as “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,” add that extra bit of meaning that we find so often lacking in otherwise good cinema nowadays and harmonize perfectly with Sean Ellis’ cinematic world.
The elements of magical realism in Cashback reminiscent of such films as French hit Amelie (2001), Korean love story Il Mare (2000) and the more recent Russian production Rusalka (2007) infuse the work with a certain ethereal quality, a pervasive charm even the most cynical and jaded of audiences will find difficult to resist falling under.
Films like Cashback are not easy to find these days. Fresh, kinetic, and provocative, yet also charming, gentle and light-hearted, this film is clearly the work a true auteur who manages to flawlessly combine all these qualities in a single offering and takes the viewer on an emotional roller coaster to ultimately deliver a meaningful experience that will stay with you longer than most. Cashback is essential viewing for everyone over 18.
Director: Sean Ellis
Starring: Sean Biggerstaff (Ben Willis), Emilia Fox (Sharon Pintey)
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
Runtime: 102 mins | Country: UK | Language: English/Spanish