Synopsis: When it comes to badminton, Carl (Tom Greaves) is the king of the court. However, when newcomer, Morgan Silk (Nial Kiely), joins the local badminton charity tournament, Carl’s dominance is threatened. Carl might be the club’s alpha-male, but Morgan’s technique challenges the status quo. As Carl’s frustration grows, he’s forced to examine his masculinity and even question his sexuality.
A whiff of homoeroticism
The short film, Shuttlecock (Gillard, 2019), is a sports comedy with a large helping of homoeroticism. This is conveyed via the film’s script with innuendo like; “I can’t imagine your wife enjoys getting your tip at all”. It’s also conveyed via the framing of the film’s action. For example, a close-up of fellow badminton players receiving a shower of sweat from Morgan as they enthusiastically watch him strut his stuff. There’s even a sweaty embrace between our two leads as Morgan teaches Carl his *coughs* technique. Yes, there’s certainly a whiff of homoeroticism to this match up.
However, Shuttlecock deftly chooses not to align us with either protagonist (Carl) or antagonist (Morgan). It’s more interested in discussing the fluidity of masculinity and thus gender as a construct. What we’re essentially treated to is a thirteen-minute exploration of Carl’s unspoken sexual desires and an examination of his masculinity as it fragments and evolves. The film invites us on that journey, successfully utilising humour to convey its central theme.
The film is witty and boasts excellent central performances from both Tom Greaves and Nial Kiely. It also features a host of local aspiring actors who all contribute to the film’s humour with their comic timing – I’m looking at you, Patrick Feeney!
Technically, the film features some exquisite tracking shots, specifically when we first enter the men’s changing room and there’s also some exemplary use of shot-reverse-shot. The film has an interesting colour palette, dominated by pastel greens, oranges and whites. It was shot in the 1.33:1/4:3 aspect ratio and combined with its use of colour and editing, it does feel somewhat indebted to Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, 2014).
Shuttlecock sounds the gong for all Devon filmmakers and with its inclusion in this year’s BFI London Film Festival, it should help Gillard and his crew gain national exposure. They are definitely filmmakers to watch and they’re a shining testament to the team at Exeter Phoenix and how they continue to invest in and support local filmmakers.
Quite simply, Shuttlecock is an absolute pleasure to watch and it’ll no doubt delight the thousands of film fans participating in this year’s LFF.
The keen readers of D&CFilm might well recognise Tommy Gillard’s Shuttlecock. That’s because it was commissioned by Exeter Phoenix in early 2019. The film went on to win the Audience Award at last year’s Two Short Nights film festival, where it premiered. Find out more about Gillard’s filmmaking process in this interview.
Shuttlecock (Gillard, 2019) is being screened as part of the BFI’s London Film Festival and it will be available to watch for free via the BFI Player from Wednesday 7th to Sunday 18th of October 2020.