CashbackIn 2006, the short film Cashback was nominated for a best live-action short Oscar. Writer/Director Sean Ellis then went on to spin the short about a night-shift worker in a supermarket into a feature about a night-shift worker in a supermarket. Using the same actors, and even most of the footage from the original short, Ellis adds a painful breakup to our hero’s life, which brings on a case of incurable insomnia. Looking for a way to cash in on his inability to sleep, art student Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff) applies for a job at an all-night supermarket.

Anyone remember Saved By the Bell and Zack Morris’s envy-worthy ability to utter the phrase “time-out” and thus freeze time? In Cashback Ben has this same ability, but he uses it in a much more libidinous way: to undress attractive women in the grocery store he works at and then draw their nude figures. Granted, these gratuitous scenes are not the crux of the film, but they’re likely to be the most memorable to most viewers. As the camera slowly pans over (and back over) the striking nude female forms, the audience is to see Ben as an intrepid young artist, not as a peeping Tom. The artistic presentation of the women, and the flashbacks to Ben’s childhood experiences do their best to give this impression, but the extended length of the scenes and their lack of importance to the final outcome of the story, implies a hint of exploitation rather than simple artistic expression. For the most extensive look at the indelible female form since Striptease, Cashback has cornered the market. Cleverly disguised in the form of a romantic comedy, Cashback manages to comes across as an artsy British Garden State meets Showgirls.

With an endearing cast of characters, including Emilia Fox as Ben’s new love interest at the supermarket, Cashback offers an intriguing story exploring the complicated topics of relationships and self-expression through surrealistic methods, including freezing and fast-forwarding time. At different points, the world is swirling around Ben, faster than he can keep up, while at others everything stops and he can examine the world between the moments that we live. Eventually he comes to realize that there are times when fast-forward and freeze frame are on equal footing; no matter what, the past can’t be undone.

Cashback is the first feature from director Sean Ellis, and while it’s clear that he has enormous talent in the fields of both writing and directing, it’s also clear that he has much room to grow as an artist. At times the film begins to meander a bit, and points that seem to have real significance to the story are left by the wayside as new plotlines are picked up. This causes the film to play out almost episodically, like several short films strapped together. This is only fitting, considering that Cashback started as a short. Audiences will not be disappointed by the message of Cashback: “Sometimes love is hiding between the seconds of your life”, but they may find themselves wondering about the presentation of the message.

View the official Cashback trailer
View the French Cashback trailer (with nudity).
The official Cashback site
To purchase the film, starting July 24th, visit Amazon

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