From the UK Focus strand at London Film Festival, Steve Taylor-Bryant holds court on Shuttlecock...
Carl is the local Badminton hero, a man’s man, all about bravado and power and manly things done in a manly way. He is winning a charity badminton tournament, showing off both on and off court to his adoring public who lap up his manliness until a rival new player, Morgan Silk, hits the court. Morgan plays with finesse and technique rather than brute force and Carl thinks he is feminine and a ballet dancer but is confused by why he is drawn to him. Just before the final starts Morgan shows Carl how he does his technique in an erotic way, confusing Carl further and then the final kicks off with Morgan’s gentler approach versus Carl’s brute force and manliness. When a shuttlecock hits Morgan in the face the game is abandoned leaving an incredulous Carl demanding the game be finished before Carl follows Morgan into the changing room and finally the shower as the final credits roll.
Shuttlecock was a great short film, using a sport not traditionally regarded by the majority of men as the manliest of sports but treating it here with its hero worshipping as if it was football or rugby, was an interesting concept that immediately tells you this film isn’t what you expect it to be and it wasn’t. This was not a film about badminton at all, this was a film about a man's perceived actions deeming him the manliest in the land versus a gentler more evolved soul who can threaten your masculinity to their own ends. This was social media, this was a glorified visual representation of our society, this was pent up frustrated dinosaur man versus the new generation of inclusive and caring man, and this was wonderfully played out in an almost sitcom meets 70’s erotica kind of way with two outstanding performances by Tom Greaves as Carl the avatar for straight white men of a certain background, and Niall Kiely as Morgan Silk, the most threatening thing to happen to men since moisturiser.
Greaves as Carl takes the character too seriously and hams up the awesome manly persona to almost caricature levels and, in most other types of film, this would be too much but set against Kiely’s portrayal of Silk as the feminine homoerotic threat it just works on so many levels making Shuttlecock not just highly enjoyable but also very important in these changing times where the dinosaur man has no role to play anymore. Shuttlecock is around the twenty minute mark but feels brisk with no padding at all and, if you are comfortable with your sexuality and more inclusive than a Neanderthal, then it is well worth a watch, I fear though that social media man is not quite ready.
Watch Shuttlecock for free on BFIPlayer as part of London Film Festival.
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Image - BFI