I attended the world premiere of "Cashback" at the Toronto International Film Festival. I walked out in a daze. I had a feeling I'd seen something special, that moment when you have to pause to take a breath and reflect on what you've experienced. I still had about 20 films to go at the time, and "Cashback" raised the bar and became the benchmark against which all the others would have to be compared. As it turned out, nothing came close. Of the 30 plus films I saw that week, "Cashback" tops the list.
Literally built around the short film of the same name which screened at festivals in 2004, triple threat writer/director/producer Sean Ellis did something ingenious. Rather than take his 20 minute piece and expand it to fill 90 minutes, he created a new Act One and Act Three to bookend a reworking of the original short in the center. And he pulled it off with a tour de force of light and sound. The result is an eerie, compelling twist on the classic Outer Limits episode where time stops while the protagonist weaves in and out of the frozen characters in another dimension. It may sound like sci-fi, but this is a sweet romantic comedy whose storyline is among the most original I've ever seen on screen. The concept is brilliant and the result magnificent.
The look is lush, cinematography by Angus Hudson breathtaking, and "Cashback" features an appropriately sweet score. They combine to give this low budget project a big movie feel, destined for the wide audience it deserves.
Most of all, I believe "Cashback" is the vehicle which will introduce newcomer Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood of "Harry Potter") to the world. His star tun in this film as protagonist Ben Willis left me speechless. The camera loves him, and he is on screen virtually from opening to closing credits. This film is his to make or break. It rests on his shoulders, and he owns the material.
As they say, you'll laugh, you'll cry, and I walked out with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. And no other film I saw at the Toronto Film Festival did that to me. "Cashback" is a sweet little masterpiece.