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Independent Film Review - Cashback

Updated on April 9, 2011

Cashback (Feature Film) 2006

Its been a while, but I have returned with the third part of my series about independent movie reviews, and I have another one planned for the film 'Gigantic' starring the beautiful Zooey Deschanel. The following article is about a film I watched late last year and I just like to document these films so I don't forget about them. I see so many good films and especially like to search through 'artsy' mumblecore films, the likes of which are often run on Film4.

Cashback was originally a short film and later a feature film both directed by Sean Ellis and produced by Lene Bausager. The original short included the 'daydream' type elements from the feature film which you will learn about as I proceed to describe the feature in the following text. The feature film was released by Gaumont and Left Turn Films produced both short and feature.

Ben(left) and friend Sean Higgins(Right) looking towards Suzy in college canteen after break-up
Ben(left) and friend Sean Higgins(Right) looking towards Suzy in college canteen after break-up


Ben is a young art-student who is living at the college dormitories, and has recently split from his first serious girlfriend Suzy. After calling Suzy to make up for the argument they had, Ben realises there is absolutely no chance of them getting back together and finds it extremely hard to bounce back, stuck reminiscing the good times they once spent. He starts to suffer from insomnia and finds himself with an extra 1/3 of his day with nothing to do, therefore he decides to apply for a job at the local Sainsbury's doing the night shift and earning 'cashback'.

 As far back as Ben can remember, he was always fascinated by the female form like many artists before him, and he was exposed to it from a very young age. Examples of this were noted when Ben flashbacks to a young boy and how he witnessed a Swedish boarder who stayed at his house and walked from the showerroom to her bedroom totaly naked, indicating that she didnt feel a need for discretion in front of the boy. Also Ben and his friend Sean Higgins remember a young girl who came from a poor family had caught on that boys were becoming interested in girls, so she would charge them 50p to show her genitals to them.

Ben at his night shift daydreaming
Ben at his night shift daydreaming

We are quickly introduced to the main characters of the movie when Ben narrates us through his first night on the job, he discusses how mundane the job seems and what everybodies methods of coping are. At first he spots the charming Sharon as she works tirelessly at the checkouts avoiding eye contact with the clock directly in front of her. He quickly develops a crush on her, she encapsulates his dreams and gives him the encouragement he needs to proceed with his coursework.

I enjoyed the other minor characters which included Barry and Matt, two mischiefous 'lads' who also work on the shop floor and spend their 8 hours finding anything to do which doesnt involve working hard.  The manager of the store Jenkins is equally as 'sad' as these two jokers, being in his mid-thirties without a partner and always hitting on Sharon in a sleazy manner,  but he is humourous overall due to his attempts at being popular.

Barry and Matt fooling around with Ben
Barry and Matt fooling around with Ben
Sharon, tired and imagining an alternate reality where she can practice her passion of the french language.
Sharon, tired and imagining an alternate reality where she can practice her passion of the french language.

 Ben still finds his Insomnia getting worse, he cannot see an end to his heartbreak and begins wishing he could just freeze time and let his imagination run wild. We now see through Ben's eyes as time freezes to his will and he becomes narrator once more, describing how normal occurrences could produce different outcomes making it more bearable for him to complete his shift. One of Ben's favourite themes being the 'female form', we are taken along one aisle where all the women are frozen exposing their breasts and with shirts partially draped across their forearms. Ben likes to position them in poses other than the reaching for tins of food, and in deep concentration sketches figuratively for inclusion in his portfolio.

female shoppers prior to Ben's 'undressing with the eyes'
female shoppers prior to Ben's 'undressing with the eyes'

Ben's boss Jenkins encourages the boys to participate in a 5-a-side soccer match between them and another local supermarket, Ben reluctantly accepts only because Sharon agrees on being there to support him. After the match proves to be a disaster, Ben once again freezes time, only to discover an obscure person is lurking in the imaginary world who also appears to have the 'freeze' time ability, this leaves the viewer intrigue and wondering 'who could this be? is it Sharon? is it...?'

In consolation of the defeat, Jenkins then decides it will be a nice gesture to invite everybody at work to a birthday party he has thrown in aid of his own birthday. Sharon asks Ben to be her date, partly due to her secret affection for him and partly to avoid the less sophisticated boy's from asking her.

During the party, something which couldn't have been foreseen by any viewer let alone Ben, is Suzy's presence at the party. This soon becomes a problem when Ben retreats to the upstairs bathroom only to run into Suzy, his former heartthrob, where she admits her hastiness at the break-up and attempts to kiss him. Sharon lingering at the foot of the stairs witnesses this and gets the wrong impression, she turns to leave before seeing Ben reject Suzy projecting herself on him. Ben hurriedly clambers down the stairs only to see Sharon exiting through the front door, he then realises he may be able to freeze time but he is unable turn back time.

Ben introducing Sharon his new girlfriend to his ex Suzy at Jenkins party
Ben introducing Sharon his new girlfriend to his ex Suzy at Jenkins party

the next day, unintentionally, Barry and Matt make matters worse for Ben when they play a practical joke, faking a phonecall to Ben pretending to be an art gallery owner who is interested in his work. Ben shows up to the gallery with portfolio in hand, only find out he has been had when the receptionist insists there is no appointment for him, but with a twist of fate, as he is about to walk away the gallery owner asks to view his work since he is there. The owner proclaims that he has a spare slot and if Ben is able to produce more work like he has done, there is definately an exhibition in it for him.

Many people have given this film negative feedback, mainly due to narrow-minded ideals, frowning upon the partial nudity and claiming there is no underlying message to the film. However I would like to refer back to the notion of Ben being able to freeze time but unable to travel backwards, I believe this has a deep concept which later produces a quality 'happy ending'. despite the cynical attitude we often have towards predictable endings, I believe in this case it becomes something more meaningful.

Ben decides to send Sharon an invitation to the art showcase, even though he was unable to convince her that the event which to place at the party wasn't how it seemed. At the last moment, Sharon feeling slightly guilty for being stubborn and unreasonable attends and is overwelmed by Ben's entire display being centre around beautiful works detailing her every feature in an almost angelic form. The film ends with a romantic scene including Ben and Sharon walking hand in hand along the alleyway out from the gallery, surrounded by an innocently white descent of snowflakes.


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