Starring: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Michelle Ryan, Erica Ellis
After a bad break-up, Ben develops chronic insomnia. To make use of the 8 hours a night when he should be sleeping, he takes a job working the midnight shift at a local grocery store. Here he discovers a colorful cast of characters in the form of his co-workers and boss, the girl who might hold the key to ending his insomnia, and the ability to stop time.
The first time I watched this movie was when I happened to stumble upon it in the “indie” section of one of my local video rental stores. I picked it up simply because of the topless girl on the cover thinking I might get to see a some good nudity. I got my nudity fix at the time with this film (at least the one scene in which nudity exists), but I also got a well written and well acted independent foreign film that I have since watched another half dozen times.
Aspiring artist, Ben, develops insomnia after he and his girlfriend break up and only a couple days later she's already with another man. The knowledge that she could move on so quickly as if her time with him meant nothing drives him mad and he spends the time he should be sleeping staring at the ceiling above his bed.
Deciding he should do something more constructive with his time (and possibly make some extra money while he's at it), Ben gets a job working the midnight shift at a local grocery store. The job itself is boring (his duties including mostly of stocking the shelves and mopping the floors of the aisles). In an effort to pass the time, Ben begins imagining that he can stop time to undress the store's midnight shoppers and draw their nude forms. Eventually, stopping time stops being a fantasy and becomes an actual ability that Ben can utilize at will.
The manager of the store recruits Ben (and all the graveyard shift crew) to be on the company football (or soccer, as we Americans call it) team to play in an annual game against another grocery store. They get destroyed, and end up cheering for themselves at the end of the game when they score their only point of the match (regardless of how badly they've just been beaten). The boss also plans to throw a birthday party for himself after the game and invites everyone.
Ben and his co-worker Sharon form a mutual crush and flirt in an awkward sort of way and Sharon asks Ben to be her date to the party. He agrees. At the party, however, Ben's ex-girlfriend tries to convince him that they should give their relationship a second chance. Despite Ben's refusal of the offer, the girl kisses him, which Sharon sees and promptly flees the party. Ben goes after her and stops time. He cannot reverse time, however, to take back the kiss, and instead lives for many days in the moment of watching Sharon before she can flee.
Ben gets offered an exhibition of his art, which he invites Sharon to hoping to win her back.
“Cashback” is based on the short film of the same name by the same director. In fact, the short film appears in its entirety in this feature film. However, where as the short film received great critical and fan acclaim (winning numerous awards at film festivals internationally and being a very popular download on itunes in 2004), the feature film did not fare as well gaining only limited release in both the UK and the US, followed by poor dvd sales. I think that's a shame as I very much enjoy this film.
The story is original and the characters are fun to watch. Their relationships with one another feel authentic and overall this film is just a joy to watch unfold.
The editing and soundtrack are both perfect, where nothing feels forced or cheesy, and it all flows like the graceful pencil movements of Ben's artwork.
The casting was well thought out and all the actors give strong performances that made me care about each character and the situations they all found themselves in (even the half-witted buddies that for most of the film are just dumb comic relief felt multidimensional).
My only problem with this film is a single scene. There's a scene at the soccer (excuse me, football) game where Ben has stopped time and is in the cafeteria of the recreational facility. Something moves that catches Ben's eye. Nothing should be moving because he has stopped time. He looks at everything and everyone in the room with intent to find out what is off. Suddenly, a man in a hoodie gets up and runs from the room. There is someone else who can move through time even once it's been stopped! My problem with this is two-fold. 1) WHY is there another person who is able to move through time at will? This seems like it should be something ONLY Ben is capable of doing as it makes him original and interesting in a world that he himself finds to be bland and boring. 2) We never again meet the man in the hoodie who has the same power as Ben and it's never even mentioned again. It seems like it was put in there for no reason whatsoever and it feels out of place not just for Ben, but me as the audience.
Other than the one scene mentioned, “Cashback” is a wonderful and well made film that should be checked out by anyone looking to lose themselves in a unique story with great and interesting characters.
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