It is often argued that suicide is one of the most selfish things a person can do, in that it simultaneously removes the burden of one’s troubles while unloading a truckload of problems on everyone else. Golf With a Shotgun is a film that certainly shares this viewpoint, at least in the context of the narrative, but it’s also incredibly funny and, strangely, rather touching. Dave is the depressed, self-pitying protagonist of the film, attempting to end his life in the most painless way possible. Unfortunately for Dave, his plans fall through, and he is forced to continue his lonely existence on the Earth. That is until he reads a flyer for clay pigeon shooting, and decides to give it a go, doubtless hoping that a shotgun blast in the face will be a relatively quick death.
The shooting instructor is a good-natured old man called Larry, who cracks jokes that fall flat against Dave’s wall of angst. While Larry injects a good deal of warmth into the film, the humour remains wonderfully spiky throughout, particularly when Dave turns the gun on his instructor with the insistence that Larry blow his miserable head off. Here we see the real selfishness of Dave, forcing an innocent man to commit murder, simply so that Dave can shuffle off this mortal coil with a minimum amount of pain. However, despite the suicide theme, the film doesn’t have a particular agenda, other than setting up a hilarious situation and seeing how the characters deal with it. The film is not making a point about suicide, although the age difference between Dave and Larry is interesting, in that it creates a real friction between the characters, setting them worlds apart.
Most of us know someone who has chosen to commit suicide; it is an act that affects a great deal of people. In my experience, those that do take their own lives are young, and have really hardly lived at all. I don’t know whether it’s a chemical thing, but young people seem to exaggerate the importance of their situation, to the point when uncertainty or depression can feel like the end of the world. However, generally speaking, when you live a long time you begin to appreciate that life can be a bitch, but you just work through it anyway. This concept feeds a lot of the relationship dynamic between the two characters in Golf with a Shotgun. Dave is the centre of his own little universe, he sees his life as a sharp pain that has become unbearable, and desperately seeks an escape. Larry, all though initially chirpy, is actually a world-weary old man who views his life as more of a dull ache, a burden to bear. The contrast between these two characters is exploited expertly in the film, and although played for laughs, it packs a certain punch. Golf With a Shotgun is a dark comedy, but only in the sense that the protagonist is suicidal, in actuality the tone of the film is a lot warmer, and the message is upbeat; take responsibility for you actions, and don’t inflict pain on others.