Art student Ben Willis (Sean Biggerstaff) has had his heart broken recently, but it might have all been his fault which only makes matters worse. His ex-girlfriend Suzy (Michelle Ryan) made it clear in no uncertain terms that she wasn't interested in seeing him after that, and now had a new boyfriend much to Ben's dismay. His best mate Sean (Shaun Evans) tries to cheer him up and offers him advice that he should go out and get a beautiful girl to hang on his arm as it's a major confidence boost, but Ben isn't so sure about Sean's personal success in that respect. And now he finds he cannot sleep at all...
Poor old Ben, he's a sensitive artistic type and nobody understands him, blah de blah, we'd been here a thousand times before in the movies, but writer and director Sean Ellis attempted to inject something new into the plot basics by adding a fantasy tone. Not with dragons and fairies or that sort of thing, but by offering his protagonist a magic power in that he becomes so trapped in his insomnia that he manages to slow the already crawling time he endures to a complete halt. Thus he could wander around a world where nobody was moving except himself, and he could do whatever he wanted, which was draw attractive women.
It was this part, where Ben gets a job at the nightshift at his local supermarket to give himself something to do, and some money in return for his otherwise squandered time (the "cashback" of the title), which made up about twenty minutes of screen time, and had been an Oscar-nominated short, seen here smoothly assimilated by the rest of the movie which was actually shot two years later. But Ben doesn't simply content himself with sketching these women from afar, nope, he goes one step further - or indeed one step too far, by undressing them without their knowledge to draw them in the nude, or at least in a state where their breasts, bottoms and whatnot were on full display.
Now there was a problem with that because although the actresses and models had given their permission to be captured starkers on film, the characters they were playing had not, and you could count yourself lucky Ellis didn't take his sexual fantasy to its conclusion and have Ben start assaulting them, because, you know, sensitive artist and not creepy pervert, oh no. Not that Ben stopped with the strangers he found enticing, as there was a co-worker, Sharon (Emilia Fox), who he fell in love with, which would have been quite sweet except he was freezing her in time to open her blouse and sketch her in her bra. All the way through we were privy to Ben's thoughts in voiceover, which presumably were intended to offer insight into his frame of mind.
This disconnection with real life that being up all night can present was well portrayed, so much so that the broad comedy interludes seemed out of place: there's a humorous five-a-side football match between his colleagues and a rival supermarket's led by British TV personality Nick Hancock for some reason which aims for big laughs. Whether it got them was another matter, for Ben had been so uncomfortable to watch it was as if Ellis didn't quite realise how offputting his concept was for the film; he could have got a neat dark hours rumination on in between lives that Late Night Shopping managed, only with a fantasy twist, but watching this was akin to getting to know someone who seemed to be a nice guy until he started sharing with you unbidden his love of extreme porn. Visually, Cashback didn't go that far so it was almost on the right side of tasteful nudity, but if anything it exposed more: the men are only after one thing notion, even the decent ones. And that ending: any normal person, male or female, would have been royally freaked out by such attention. Music by Guy Farley.