Dir/scr: Sean Ellis. UK. 2006.90mins.

A wistful, endearing slip of a romantic comedy, Cashback marks anassured feature debut from writer/director Sean Ellis. An expansion of hisOscar-nominated short, it strains to fill the bigger canvas of a feature butany reservations are balanced by the unusual lyricism of Ellis's approach tothe genre, the visual polish of the piece and a star-making performance fromSean Biggerstaff.

Reminiscent of Saul Metzstein's LateNight Shopping (2001), it could suffer a similar fate of being criticallyadmired but failing to make a significant commercial impact. But thethoughtful, poetic qualities that distinguish it from brasher American examplesof the genre might just endear it to a more sophisticated European market.

A talented art student, Ben(Biggerstaff) cannot come to terms with the fact thathe has been dumped by his girlfriend. It is the end of his world and he cannoteat or sleep. The wee small hours of the morning is the time he misses her mostof all. Desperate to fill the hours of his chronic insomnia, he takes a jobworking the graveyard shift at his local supermarket.

Soon, he has entered atwilight zone of endless boredom where he mentally freezes time and attempts tomake sense of the world around him. He also meets checkout girl Sharon (Emilia Fox), who could be the answer to all his problems.

Although it assemblesfamiliar ingredients of a lovelorn hero, boorish best friend, comic relief workcolleagues and a David Brent-style supermarket manager boss, Cashback isworlds removed from the crass romp that one might have expected. There arecomic escapades at a five-aside football match and misunderstandings along theway but they do not set the tone of the piece.

Rather, Cashback is much less frivolousand more composed in its style and almost soulful in the way it focuses on ayoung man confronting his emotions and working out where he goes from here. Ben'sability to freeze time lends a dream-like fantasy element to the film that isappealing rather than contrived. Characters remain statue-like in thesupermarket as Ben circles them, admiring the beautyof the women he strips and poses as if they were models for his drawings.

Previously known for hisrole as the captain of the Quidditch team in theearly Harry Potter features, Biggerstaff proves to be an able leading man with asympathetic presence that allows him to carry the film. He also maintains ourinterest through the lengthy passages of introspective, soul-searchingnarration delivered in a deadpan Michael Caine-stylevoice that reflects the character's exhaustion and his numbed state of mindafter the bitter blow of romantic disappointment.

Cashback does have its contrivances; the sudden enthusiasm for Ben's art by agallery owner (Jared Harris) seems particularly far-fetched but generally thisis a very likable affair that has just enough offbeat qualities and engagingperformances to make it linger in the mind.

Production company
Left Turn Films

International sales

Executive producers
Daphne Guinness
Vijay Thakur
Peter Hampden
Norman Merry

Lene Bausager

Angus Hudson

Scott Thomas
Carlos Domeque

Production design
Morgan Kennedy

Guy Farley

Main cast
Sean Biggerstaff
Emilia Fox
Shaun Evans
Michelle Ryan
Stuart Goodwin
Michael Dixon
Michael Lambourne
Jared Harris