Director: Sean Ellis
Starring: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Michelle Ryan

A picture says 908 words
Developed from a 2004 short film of the same name, ‘Cashback’ is the story of ‘Ben Willis’ (Sean Biggerstaff), who has just broken up with his girlfriend, ‘Suzy’ (Michelle Ryan). As a result of the following grief, he develops insomnia and takes up a night-shift job at a local supermarket. It is here where ‘Ben’s artistic imagination blossoms, giving us a creative view-point of ‘Ben’s world.

First impressions are quite possibly what make this film so surprising. I knew nothing of this film other than a brief synopsis and seeing the DVD cover before watching it. On first thought, due to the poster and the DVD cover, one would assume that this is going to be something along the lines of ‘American Pie’, filled with crude jokes and gratuitous nudity making it an entertaining comedy to watch every once in a while. Though in the case of ‘Cashback’, the impressions are thwarted and this becomes a fairly mould bending take on the ‘Romantic-Comedy’ genre.

The romance aspect to this is fairly subtle; it is more of a consistent underlying theme than something in the foreground. Though relationships play a fairly large part in ‘Ben’s psyche, it cunningly avoids being cheesy or stomach churning by building humour or art on top of it.
For example; ‘Ben’s development into his current mental state is chronicled by a series of cleverly intertwined flashback sequences, which were brilliantly transitioned between past and present. During these sequences we have a nicely incorporated aspect of early exposure to certain life experiences, which are shown to influence the path of fate.
Despite the content of the sequences feeling somewhat anachronistic, it painted a great portrait as to the reasoning behind ‘Ben’s persona, as well as his best friend ‘Sean’ who happens to be the complete opposite.

Surrounding ‘Ben’ are a series of misogynistic characters, and this makes the use of nudity come across as a much more clever aspect than it would do if misogyny wasn’t surrounding the protagonist. Being that ‘Ben’ is an artist; we see through his eyes how he perceives the female form. Full nudity is shown in various parts of the film, but is never displayed in a sexually stimulating manner; it is only ever shown as an art form and becomes a very justified and important section of the film.

Cinematographically this film is directly reflective of ‘Ben’s personality, aiding in developing a connection between the audience and the character. Whilst some of the imagery felt a little cliché, it fits in well being that it is proven artistic formulae. However, some of the few clichéd moments are adapted in experimental ways. The use of time manipulation for example; in ‘Ben’s imagination he can stop time, displaying a visual metaphor for the appreciation of every moment of life. During these moments, ‘Ben’ engages his creative mindset to draw some of these frozen moments.
This is a nice insight into bridging the gap between reality and imagination.

‘Ben’ is somewhat disconnected from reality, fairly placid, and doesn’t seem to physically display much emotion. It is apparent that he is a believer of fate and is thus accepting of the erroneous factors that come his way. This helps to identify with his character, as well feel for him in realising that it probably isn’t the healthiest course of action. Though, this is overcome with assorted humorous goings on around the night-shift.

This is a very funny film, filled with immensely colourful main characters. While the humour can often be crude or perhaps simple, it works well in keeping with the theme of the film, and due to the personalities of the characters executing such humour it becomes very enjoyable. However, a lot of the comedy is performed in a way specifically designed to be funny, carried out by characters designed to be crazy. These characters felt more like plot devices than people to care about regarding the progression of the protagonist.
I feel the comedy would have had much more of an effect had these characters been a bit more natural.

Despite this, the cast were well picked; each performing greatly in their roles. The most natural of the cast being Biggerstaff and Fox, the only actors whose roles were written to be taken with seriousness. Overall, the acting is one of the best elements of the film, and if nothing else across the film is personally admired by the viewer, the acting and cinematography should hopefully be enough to captivate the audience throughout.

This is probably one of those films in which you will find new things each time. With many underlying themes and messages, it can be watched with various perspectives, and different aspects can be taken from it dependent on the individual. This is art, poetry, comedy, romance and drama all combined together into one subtle masterpiece.

However, undeterred by its visually captivating style and overall experimentation, the film is actually none too memorable. In the end it is still only a tentative form of a ‘Romantic-Comedy’. This isn’t really anything more than an enjoyable piece of artistic entertainment with lots of laughs and thoughtful aspects, but is easily forgotten.
Though, director Sean Ellis is to be commended here for ‘Cashback’ is visually impressive with an interesting story, and anyone can see he has a potentially substantial career ahead of him.
An inventive twist on a typically clichéd genre – 6 out of 10.


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February 2009
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