MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Viewed as part of Tiger beer and Empire magazine’s ‘Undiscovered Treasures’ season.
The genre of ‘romantic comedy’ is so often riddled with monotonous sentimentality and a distinct lack of romance or humour beyond passionless inanity. It seems almost unfair to shove a film as well observed as Cashback into the same label. But it’s full of romance and comedy and a raw, believable warmness that entirely fills its audience with a great deal of affection.
Cashback stars Sean Biggerstaff, perhaps most recognizable for playing Quidditich keeper Oliver Wood in the Harry Potter series. However, like a lot of things in this film, I wasn’t previously aware of his Gryffindor lineage. I also wasn’t aware that spliced somewhere in the middle of this 102 minute feature film is the original 18 minute, Oscar nominated short film it expands upon. But there’s no issue with continuity or any apparent aging of the young cast and if Director Sean Ellis hadn’t let it slip in the Q&A afterwards you would never have realized. Cashback takes its short film and delights in its ability to expand upon the original work to create characters full of amiability and vulnerability.
Biggerstaff guides the film in his role as Ben Willis, an art student struggling to overcome a break up, leading him to a life of insomnia fueled all-night Sainsbury’s shelf stacking shifts as he struggles to move on from the relationship. The supporting cast all do a fine job, most notably Emilia Fox as Ben’s next love interest and Stuart Goodwin as the creepy David Brent-esque boss, Jenkins. Biggerstaff provides an introspective voice-over that really carries the narrative and provides the reflection required to steer the movie from a quirky little indie film to a character driven gem.
Some of the most innovative parts of the film explore how Ben deals with time. Boredom, insomnia and longing, all made more painful by the slow passage of the clock. Sequences show Ben pause time in his mind, taking a snapshot while he observes what’s going on around him. Such a storytelling device doesn’t feel gimmicky but deeply human, reflective and powerful. In one memorable sequence, Ben pauses time and undresses several women in Sainsbury’s. Rather than seeming perverted, Biggerstaff succeeds in making himself appear as the vulnerable and naked individual.
It’s also funny, maybe not always laugh out loud funny and the tone is occasionally missed (particularly with one Kung Fu practicing co-worker), but even the comedy more often than not manages to feel believable. There’s nothing inevitable about the two pieces of the romance coming together, but what does drive the film is watching Ben put his life back together. Sweet, amusing and poignant, Cashback really is an undiscovered diamond which deserves to be revisited.
Cashback is out on DVD. Check the post above this for a chance to win a copy for yourself. Running time: 102 mins. Certificate 18 (UK).
Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.
Review by David Rank