How can anyone miss the poster for Cashback? Featuring a beautiful blonde in a supermarket who's almost naked from the waist up, her modesty protected by the words of the title, I guess you're forgiven if you mistake this for some low brow sex movie. But Cashback is anything but low brow, and sex is just a small part of the equation. Based on a short film of the same name written and directed by Sean Ellis, this is easily one of my favourite movies this year. It's intelligent, sexy, and nothing as raunchy as the poster would suggest, but full of little elements of surprises that connected, some of which are wickedly naughty.
Cashback is a beautiful romantic comedy, filled with fantastical bits which elevated it to another plane altogether. There are some technically brilliant transitional and special effects that do make you go wild, but at its core, it's the story it had to tell that truly wowed me. Although it's a romantic film, it's firmly rooted in the pain of a breakup. Anyone who's gone through one, will know that feeling of despair, and hopelessness that life seem to have taken a turn into. And our protagonist Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff) is such, when we witness his (literally) painful split with his girl Suzy (Michelle Ryan).
For the first 10 minutes, I could totally identify with Ben, his thought processes, feelings, and his suffering. Ben suffered from insomnia, and is trying hard to find ways to pass the time. Since he couldn't sleep, he found the perfect win-win solution, and that is to utilize the time to earn some money, cashback, if you will, for services rendered. It's about finding our own space to pass time, to keep ourselves occupied, and to while away the idle moments instead of wasting time thinking about the what-ifs. Getting cashback of course is an incentive, but never the prime motivation. I could tell you all about the setting up of A Nutshell Review, but that's another story (along the same veins) for another day.
Like my other favourite British movie of this year (Hot Fuzz), Cashback has its primary setting in a supermarket, where Ben ends up in, working the graveyard hours of a 24hrs chain. Thanks to its quirky manager and madcap co-workers, there's no lack of shenanigans that they get themselves into, and we spend time with Ben as he explores and studies how each of them deals with the mundaneness of their lives. And a supermarket checkout girl, Sharon Pintey (Emilia Fox), catches his attention, but is he ready to embark on another round of relationship?
Cashback has plenty of keen observations of love and life in general, coupled with its witty dialogue and dark sense of humour. But it's not rapid-fire pacing all the way, as the quiet and contemplative moments far outweigh those scenes, and pave the way for some meditation within yourself. Like I said, I found the story easy to connect to, and these moments allowed some time to ponder and draw parallels. The last third of the movie is simply powerful, and coupled with Ben's imaginative ability (which I will not reveal just what), it totally moved me, and sounds out some sliver of hope.
And what of the nudity? Sure it was slightly edited here, but I thought there's nothing to fuss about. It's true that the female form is beautiful, and this film provides that sense of appreciation through Ben's artistic talent (and of course, the camera angles, the lingering moments, etc). It's lovely, but never in a pornographic way, Think of it as visiting a nude art gallery, and you get the drift of how nudity's treated in the movie.
With an excellent soundtrack to accompany the story, I felt that Cashback has all the ingredients of a hit movie, with a strong story, wonderful characterization (a mixture of key characters and caricatures) and absolutely lovely production values. For those who's fallen out of love, Ben is certainly someone whom you'll root for to pull himself out of the rut, and one whom you'll encourage to embark on another romantic journey in all earnestness with a person he fancies, contrary to the advice given by his best friend who seem to have a problem eating his own cooking, so to speak.
While it's a piece about the dread in relationships, of breaking up, what you do and how you handle the pain, it also comes with a picture of hope. It's a simple story, yet emotionally powerful without being overly sentimental, predictable or cheesy. I've so many favourite moments in this movie, that I'll be more than tempted to buy the DVD when it's out. And it certainly is a strong contender for my movie of the year 2007! Highly recommended, and you must watch this film before it disappears from our screens!