Movie Review #752


Directed by Sean Ellis. Written by Sean Ellis. Produced by Lene Bausager and Sean Ellis for Left Turn Films, Lipsync Productions, and Ugly Duckling Films. Starring Michelle Ryan, Sean Biggerstaff, Shaun Evans, Emilia Fox, Stuart Goodwin, Michael Dixon, Michael Lambourne, Frank Hesketh, Gary Beeson, Nelly Lyster-Smith, Samantha Bloom, Emilia Fenton, Nick Hancock, Janine May Tinsley, and Daphne Guinness. Credited cameos: Erica Ellis, Kinvara Balfour, Cherie Nichole, Keeley Hazell, Nadia Alkhashab, Christine Fuller, Roddy Adair, Lee Wilson, James Smith, Wayne Ploughman, Gary McNulty, Matthew Hodgson, Katrine Falkenberg, Lucy Holt. Uncredited cameos: Jared Harris, Marc Pickering. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2006. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures and Vivafilm in limited release on July 20, 2007. Also released in the UK on May 9, 2008. Rated R: graphic nudity, sexual content and language. Runs 102 minutes. (Toronto International Film Festival: 90 minutes.)

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

There’s no question about it: the best movie that directly deals with natural beauty is “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It’s a long movie, and it feels twice as long, but it seems to play a trick on the viewer: no matter how much time you can sense passing by, it won’t let you get up for a bathroom break, let alone to stand up and stretch. Why? Because it’s just beautiful. Despite the plot being an allegory unrelated to space, Stanley Kubrick gives the light and sound a voice that emphasizes a separate atmosphere: the outer space setting of the film. It doesn’t even seem to matter that the movie was made pre-Apollo 11, because it gives us the setting as nature, not science fiction. Keep in mind that to this day, the vast majority of us have never experienced outer space directly so this is a huge feat in the world of moviemaking.

That’s an influential film, but just enough. We could only wish for more truly films that emphasized beauty and nature so delicately; films that present realism and romanticism as one concept. You really need to be in love with your movie to do that, though, so it rarely happens. But “Cashback” is a definite example from within the last decade. The Rotten Tomatoes aggregation for this movie rests painfully at 46%. It saddens me to think that so many critics fail to see the beauty in front of them, even when the presentation is grandiose.

Maybe it’s because the movie falters with its overly quirky screenplay. The film seems to take a tangential route from its premise around the halfway point, when the protagonist somehow becomes involved in a soccer game, out of the blue. He’s a painter, and he really isn’t athletic, but more on him later. And it seems for a while like this is a turn for the worst, but the plot re-beautifies at the finale. It’s a thoroughly beautiful movie, and it’s thoroughly centered on the art of beauty.

This British dramedy concerns a man who has just undergone a breakup. He now suffers insomnia and decides to find some work to keep him busy during the night hours. He discovers his ability to stop time temporarily, and he uses this to sketch humans in their natural beauty. In other words, he gets out paper and pencil, takes off people’s clothes in the middle of the convenience store aisle, and draws them. Time is frozen, so he’s the only one who knows this is happening.

I don’t know what more there is to say regarding “Cashback”. From that synopsis I’ve just given you, I don’t doubt that I’ve effectively misled you. By the sound of it, this is a very randomized tale wrapped delusionally into a running time just under two hours. You could certainly look at it that way, and even with an open mind on the film, it does feel like a pilot, followed by two or three more episodes in the TV series. But with an open mind, that doesn’t seem to matter overall, because the bottom line is, it’s beautiful.

If I might put it in the words of Spock: “Fascinating.”

– Alexander Diminiano