If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, you are no doubt aware of how, after a certain point, time seems to slow to a crawl. You find yourself simply watching and waiting for the morning to come so you can become a functioning member of society again. For art student, Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff), he has lost the ability to sleep and has found himself with eight more hours to kill in the Oscar-nominated-short-turned-full-length-feature Cashback.


After a particularly crushing break-up, Ben finds himself completely unable to sleep and decides to at least make use of his time as a night shift employee at the local grocery store. While working, he finds he is able to stop time and uses this new gift to sketch the beautiful girls in the store without them knowing.

The entire concept behind Cashback is oddly perverted, but is masked in the beauty and passion that artists’ have for their muses. Simply saying a college student freezes time to undress customers and sketch their “frozen beauty” seems a little crude – if not illegal in some way. Yet, writer/director Sean Ellis, with help from Biggerstaff, successfully walks the fine line between male immaturity and adult appreciation. As mentioned multiple times in the film, women love painters for their ability to see beauty in every line, curve or what have you. Ben captures this beauty in his drawings, but only for the female form since he has such an appreciation for female beauty. This appreciation comes from an immature foundation when he was a boy, but it has blossomed into art nonetheless. If nothing else, you take from the film that Ellis really, really loves women, or he wanted to be an artist.

The main issue I have with the film is the sacrifice of pace for artistic styles. Camera filters, classical music and intricate shots of women take the place of plot progression or more interactive scenes. For much of the time Ben narrates, we are given a sort of slow, deliberate camera movement that is typically reserved for museum videos or even car advertisements to accentuate the features. To be clear, these shots are hauntingly beautiful and, in a way, calming, but they are not conducive to keeping a film well paced.

The entertainment comes from Ben’s offbeat coworkers. From the intensely immature Barry and Matt to the sweet Sharon (Emilia Fox), we are given a good group of characters that conceivably would work the night shift at a grocery store. Actually, apart from the time freezing (and not sleeping for four weeks), Cashback is quite believable and realistic. Ben develops his relationships in common ways, which gives the audience a better chance to relate more closely with him and his friends.

There are continuity errors – misplaced objects, subtle changes – and the pace is awfully slow, but Cashback finds the beauty in a perverted concept and brings the female form – and plenty of it – to the forefront of the debate over what is true beauty. Even when you get beyond the initial idea, Ben’s story is still curiously intriguing. If you find yourself with a mild case of insomnia, utilize your new time and check it out.

  1. I’ve seen this at Target so many times and the cover of the DVD always catches my eye but I’ve never taken the extra step to actually look into it past the DVD cover. It sounds like an interesting movie.

    • sheila
    • April 24th, 2012

    a whole movie starring oliver wood. amazing.

  2. Cash back was great. I enjoyed how it was fun and different. Oh those foreign films! They go where US films hardly tread.

  3. This has been in my Netflix queue forever. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve hovered over it to watch, but decided on something else. I really need to just watch it. Nice review!

    • It’s definitely worth it! It starts quite slow, but stick with it past the first fifteen min or so and it becomes really enjoyable.

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