Directed and Written by: #TommyGillard
From the opening shot, Shuttlecock is about much more than badminton: the sound and sight of sweat dripping from the tip end of a shuttlecock is the first of many innuendos played by director and writer Tom Gillard. The film focuses on an ensemble of sad white men who take badminton too seriously. There’s a scene where one player, Carl (Tom Greaves), talks to himself in the changing room mirror while boxing the air, clearly revealing how he thinks himself the Jake LaMotta of badminton.
Like LaMotta, Carl harbours a rather unpleasant brand of toxic masculinity - which channels itself against the newest member at the badminton centre, the effeminate salad-tossing Morgan Silk (well characterised by actor Niall Kiely, who brings a Ben Wishaw-like strand of wispy British pallor to the role). The game is set for these two personalities to clash and compete for the approval of their equally sad, desperate peers. And it’s no innocent competition either. Badminton becomes a more and more heated experience, a sensual negotiation of ‘cock’ moving between two men. This laces the whole film with irony from start to finish, given the all-too pitiful seriousness these men place on victory and masculinity.
With its mix of double entendres and sexual wordplay, Gillard’s film fits in nicely to a lineage of British humour - occasionally at the cost of the script and dialogue which can be obvious and two-dimensional. But supported by a range of strong performances, this doesn’t detract from the film being enjoyable. And it is enjoyable. The film’s art direction is subtle but nonetheless effective; the changing room being a shade of green that presumably hasn’t been used since the 80s. A film populated by men who take pride in moustaches and who speak like they are in a Carry On film, Gillard clearly sets up a self-ironising nostalgia which feels a little distant. Though aesthetically fun, it's hard to really discern what the audience is to take away from the film, not having any immediate resonance with modern masculinity. In the final scene, Carl enters a steamy changing-room shower with Morgan; is Carl passing over a threshold from nostalgic masculinity into acceptance? His own implied desire for Morgan Silk having been awakened? And if so, such self-acceptance feels a little disingenuous, maybe because of the nature of the short with its rushed character development, or maybe, again, due to shortcomings in the script itself. Gillard’s film is light-hearted fun and perhaps that’s all we can ask from it.