Unrequited love is never so
interesting to anyone else as it is to the victim. We've all been
through it. You are miserable for a while, sulk, feel sorry for
yourself. Your friends avoid you because you're such a downer... or
try to get you laid so you'll get back in the game. Eventually, you do
meet someone else and move on.
It may be a pain in the ass
to live through in real life, yet literature, music and film love exploring
the tragic depths of love gone wrong or not reciprocated.
Ben Willis (Sean
Biggerstaff), the hero of the new British film Cashback, takes his
depression to extreme levels. After impulsively breaking up with the
woman he loves (Michelle Ryan) because he fears he can't make her happy, he
is horrified that she accepts the break and moves on to a new boyfriend in a
matter of days. After that, Ben mopes around his art school,
obsessively drawing and thinking of his ex, Suzy. He loses all ability
to sleep, a bout of insomnia which lasts for over four weeks.
Finally, tired of being
alone with his thoughts in the middle of the night, Ben decides to take a
job at an all-night grocery store. In the store you get all the
typical types; Jenkins, the self-important manager (Stuart Goodwin), Barry
and Matt, the goofball slackers (Michael Dixon and Michael Lambourne),
Brian, the cleaning boy who fancies himself a kung fu master (Marc
Pickering) and Sharon, the pretty, underachieving cashier (Emilia Fox).
Each one of them has
different ways of making the eight long hours of the graveyard shift go a
little longer. They goof off, try to ignore the passage of time by
refusing to look at watches and clocks, joke around and flirt with
customers. Ben has an even more interesting way of passing the time,
by imagining that he is literally stopping it.
While a fascinating
conceit, I have to admit, though, I'm not sure what to make of the
time-stoppage scenes. The first time the idea is broached Ben suggests
that it is merely a fantasy — a technique which his fatigued mind grabs
onto to make the time on the job go faster. At first Ben uses the
power in typical guy ways, undressing the women who are shopping at the
grocery store, setting up chain reactions which will embarrass co-workers.
Soon he comes to find it as a way to hide, to observe beauty in silence,
even as an artist he uses it as a source for the ultimate unmoving figure
models. However, as the film goes on the scenes keep recurring, even
suggesting that others have the power to live in this silent, still world.
Not that it isn't a great
conceit, one that has been taken advantage of in literature that was good
(John T. McDonald's The Girl, The Gold Watch and Everything) and bad
(Nicholas Baker's The Fermata) and in many movies, most recently Adam
Sandler's horrible Click. However, in these other versions,
there was some kind of trigger to the pausing of time, a watch or a remote
control or something which imparts the power. In Cashback, it
just seems that Ben wills time to stop and it simply does.
With the plot and
characters, Cashback has all of the earmarks of a comedy (in fact, if
you get technical the storyline and characters are extremely similar to last
year's greatly inferior American comedy Employee of the Month.).
Cashback even does have some very funny moments, but it is much more
subtle, serious and dramatic than you would originally expect.
Cashback is a
full-length version of an Oscar nominated short film by the same name by
former photographer Sean Ellis. Unlike most examples of a slight story
pumped up beyond its original conceit like this, there is enough story here
to keep the audience's interest. He adds the characters' backstories
(in fact Ben periodically gives a rather complete history of his romantic
and sexual awakenings, complete with flashbacks), fantasy sequences, an out-of-control party, even a comic football match. There is also added a
sweet and surprisingly touching relationship between the tortured artist and
the shy cashier — one that allows them both to move on to better things.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: July 9, 2007.