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cast: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Michelle Ryan, Michael Dixon, and Shaun Evans

writer and director: Sean Ellis

98 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Universal DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Developed into a feature from the 2004 short narrative film that won an award at the Tribeca film festival and a host of other places, Cashback (aka: Frozen Time) is a wholly satisfying romantic feature, blending insight into relationships with a captivating fabulist atmosphere.

When Ben (Sean Biggerstaff, Oliver in the Harry Potter behemoth) an art student in his final year, breaks up with his girlfriend Suzy (Michelle Ryan, I Want Candy) because he feels he can never make her happy, he finds he can no longer sleep. With an extra eight hours a day to fill he takes a job on the night shift at the local Sainsbury's, turning the extra hours into money, the 'cashback' of the title.

We are introduced to the rest of the staff at the store, self-deluded boss Jenkins, and leery duo Barry and Matt, as well as Sharon on the tills (Emilia Fox, The Pianist) with her issues about time. They have all developed their own techniques for dealing with the boredom: Barry and Matt have their games, Sharon avoids looking at the clocks, and Ben makes the time pass by making it stop. Freezing time, Ben undresses and sketches the female customers in the store.

Becoming drawn to Sharon, who develops from a rather mousy individual into a beautiful young woman as she confides her dreams to him, Ben describes his philosophy of beauty and his love of the female form with illustrations from his childhood. Supported by his pal Sean (Shaun Evans, Telstar), Ben tries to make sense of what is happening to him.

I've read a lot of reviews that suggest this film is derivative, pretentious or adolescent in its use of nudity. The film is none of these things; the nudity isn't presented in a titillating way, except perhaps for the scene from Ben's childhood epiphany. None of the critical reviews have mentioned the constant stream of jokes. If the film is 'arty', well it's about an artist, and with a photographer as director certain self-consciousness about what is in the frame is inevitable. There is so much to like in this film I actually feel quite hurt about the bad reviews I've read and painfully aware that my own review isn't doing it justice.

Cashback plays with expectations, and a frozen time moment during the inter-store five-a-side football, where Ben discovers he is not alone in being able to move through the frozen world, suggests for a moment that the film might be about to move in another darker direction.

Although the film uses a rather convenient ploy to allow Ben to fulfil his dreams, and while the ending navigates hideously close to the reefs of Richard Curtis, you care about the characters and are happy to see them thrive.

The only disc extras are some deleted scenes and a making-of that proves that sometimes films do get made in short-order. Also included is the somehow delightful information that the original footage from the short is wholly included in the finished feature as it helped save 20 minutes of filming.

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