Cashback – Review

Worth seeing: to find out how Sean Ellis turned his Oscar-nominated short into a feature - that's far from Oscar-worthy
Director:Sean Ellis
Featuring:Sean Biggerstaff, Daphne Guinness, Emilia Fox, Frank Hesketh, Irene Bagach, Just Ardalan-Raikes, Keeley Hazell, Marc Pickering, Martin Ballantyne, Michael Dixon, Michael Lambourne, Michelle Ryan, Nick Hancock, Shaun Evans, Stuart Goodwin
Length:102 minutes
Certificate:15
Country:UK
Released:9th May 2008

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

After Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) is dumped by his girlfriend (Michelle Ryan), he can’t sleep at night, so he decides he might as well put the extra time he has to good use by earning a bit of extra cash by working the nightshift at Sainsbury’s.

What he really wants to be doing – rather than shelf-stacking at 3 in the morning – is pursuing a career as an artist.

But he manages to put his artistic qualities to good use, by implementing an apparent ability to freeze time – enabling him to stop the most perfect of women in their tracks, as they’re filling their shopping baskets, undress them and sketch their beautiful, naked bodies.

All the while, he’s struggling to get on with his loud-mouth, prank-playing colleagues, trying to keep on the right side of his impotent but power-hungry boss and pushing to see whether anything might happen with the unsatisfied check-out girl, Sharon (Emilia Fox), if his colleagues don’t get to her first.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

A bit of history first – a couple of years back, director Sean Ellis was nominated for an Oscar for his short film. It was called Cashback and was about a struggling artist, Ben, who took a job on the night shift at Sainsbury’s after being dumped by his girlfriend.

Sound familiar? Well, if you’ve seen that short film, this will look familiar too – in time-honoured fashion, Ellis’ debut feature is a full-length version of that short. He’s literally taken the original film and dropped it, unchanged, into the middle of his feature. A little bit of extra character development precedes it and there’s a little more plot to follow.

But the way this project has come together, it feels very much like the feature has been built around the short – adding to the beginning and end, until it’s long enough to qualify for feature status.

There doesn’t seem to be any kind of a satisfying structure to the film, and almost no character is explored at all, other than Ben.

There’s no question that for a low-budget Brit-flick, this is well shot and full of interesting visuals – largely built around its USP – the stopping of time.

But here’s another problem – when the short first saw the light of day, this was tremendously impressive and thoroughly original. In the meantime, many of us have become familiar with Hiro Nakamura’s ability to freeze the world around him in Heroes, which uses the trickery to greater effect.

While everyone involved here is clearly giving their all, there’s just not enough going on to involve us in the sketchily drawn characters or plot. We have the usual suspects (the nebbish, the grotesques, the angel) doing the usual things (falling out of love with one person and back in love with someone else). None of which is either original or tackled in an original way.

It’s charming enough – but lacking anything that makes it worth giving up an hour and a half or your time or £8 of your money.

On TV, this will be a perfectly harmless diversion – but you don’t need to make the effort to see it on the big screen.