Made in: Great Britain
Language: English
Director: Sean Ellis
Starring: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Shaun Evans, Michelle Ryan, Stuart Goodwin, Michael Dixon, Michael Lambourne, Marc Pickering
Year: 2006

Synopsis: Art school student Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff) experiences a very bad breakup with his girlfriend Suzy (Michelle Ryan). Unfortunately, his skirt-chasing and entertainingly perverted best friend, Sean (Shaun Evans), doesn't turn out to be much of a help.

Suddenly, Ben realizes that he no longer has the ability to sleep. At night, he's constantly thinking of Suzy and tries to pass the time by doing things like watching television or taking the bus around the city.

Running low on money, he takes a job at a large grocery store called Sainsbury's and works the late shift three nights a week. While there, he gets to know his coworkers, and egocentric (but harmless) boss (Stuart Goodwin). They're a lively, goofy bunch who do just about anything to break the monotony of the workplace.

Ben's thoughts begin focusing on the passage of time, and he becomes increasingly aware of small details that most other people miss.

Soon, he realizes he has the ability the stop time altogether (or at least he imagines doing so). While in this state, he gains new inspiration for his artwork, new insight into life, and finds a new love interest in Sharon (Emilia Fox), the girl who works the cash register.

Remarks: Cashback started out as a highly acclaimed short film, and was made into a feature-length project with its original cast. It's a very fascinating film, blending a lot of genuine emotion with humor.

Director Sean Ellis creates a very authentic, believable protagonist in Ben Willis. Particularly memorable are the scenes about his childhood, and how he develops from schoolboy to young adult. Through Ben's introspective voiceover, we learn about the origins of his issues with women, and how he comes to many of his beliefs. The result is an intimate, and often touching portrait that I'm sure many viewers will be able to identify with.

Cashback is particularly effective when it comes to minor details, which would appear to make sense given the overall themes. Director Sean Ellis seems to have grown up in the late 70s and 80s, so people of my generation will most likely have many "yeah, I did that too when I was a kid" moments while watching the scenes dealing with Ben's younger days.

The story is pretty simple, tightly written, and focused. The characters are all three-dimensional and unique, and the indie feel of the whole movie makes them seem like people you might actually meet in real life (provided you were in England).

And although leads Sean Biggerstaff and Emilia Fox are very likeable, appealing protagonists, they have a down-to-earth screen presence that's a refreshing contrast to the glossiness seen in other (particularly Hollywood) movies featuring actors of the same age.

Who would like this movie: Fans of foreign films and indie movies will definitely like Cashback. Those of you who studied creative fields such as art will also get a lot out it as well. Cashback is also geared towards those who don't shy away from an honest, mature discussion about all facets of sexuality.

There's a lot of nudity too (hide the kids), and I suppose it was there to both drive important story points as well as make the movie more interesting. But I'll let the viewer make that call.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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