In this 1969 Ken Loach film, a 15-year-old named Billy Casper (played by acting newcomer David Bradley) suffers abuse both at home and at school in Yorkshire, England. At his home in the working-class section of Barnsley, Billy's brother beats him and his family neglects him. At school, most of his teachers ridicule and reject him, especially sadistic Mr. Sugden (Brian Glover. Like other downtrodden children in an outmoded social system favoring the ruling class, Billy appears headed for a menial job with no future. Consequently, he has no motivation and nothing to look forward to, until the day he finds a kestrel -- a European falcon with the ability to hover against strong wind. The bird, a fledgling, is akin to the boy, who must withstand winds of his own. It is not surprising, therefore, that Billy finds meaning in befriending and caring for the baby kestrel. He raises, nurtures, and trains the falcon, whom he calls "Kes." Its development gives him hope that he too will one day develop, that he too will gain the skills to fly against the wind. Then Billy opts to spend his brother's track money on food for Kes, which sets the stage for a grave disagreement betwen the young men and an unhappy outcome. ~ Mike Cummings, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Kes
Simply, the filmmakers have brought the background of the boy's life vividly into reality.
Terrific performances, illuminated by Chris Menges' naturalistic but often evocative photography.
Loach is not a director of notable style, nor can he often refuse the obvious shot, but he seems to have a remarkable talent for handling actors and obtaining performances that are truly memorable.
The only Loach film I rate more highly is his Spanish civil war picture, Land and Freedom.
Seen today, it still cries its authentic song of rage. It still cuts like a knife.
A film that captures Loach's ability to find the extraordinary drama in ordinary lives.
Funny, sad, bitingly authentic, Kes resonates with Loach's anger at the way many kids grow up into narrow, option-free lives.
Loach and his cinematographer Chris Menges opt for a realistic, grainy, rough documentary look, which makes us in the audience feel as though we are voyeurs, bearing witness to what Godard had famously proclaimed cinema to be: truth 24 times a second.
Throbs with a simple truthfulness...Loach shows his complimentary interest in documentary-influenced social realism and the improvisational search for the authentic. [Blu-ray]
a moving, shattering tragedy - a meditation on the warping powers of human institutions. Kes is beautiful, sad and powerful - one of the best British films ever made.
...a phrase attributed to Truman Capote might well be applied to Billy Casper and his kestrel, as well: The world is not kind to little things.
Loach handles the film with a deft touch that balances the pathos and inherent sadness of Billy's predicament without sliding into complete emotional despair
The story of a boy and his bird, Kes is something of a small cinematic treasure in Britain.
It's one of the most powerful coming-of-age stories ever told and contains passages of great beauty.
Ken Loach's masterful second feature represents a critical turn away from the popularized kitchen-sink realism of the 1950s and '60s and toward a more improvised and unpredictable narrative style.
"Kes" is an essential British historic document that comes from a deeply personal place, and yet resonates across all cultures.
Audience Reviews for Kes
Whoops,...I had never heard of this British gem.
Well directed drama feels almost entirely undirected. Social-realist look at young boy growing up in a Northern mining town. I thought the domestic scenes a bit cliche, but the school scenes were great and the football scene was hilariously on the mark.
Billy Casper looks just like a young Mark E. Smith of the Fall ... no?
This much adored Ken Loach picture is a likable, smart and rightfully depressing film. However for me there was a small sense of a lack of emotional involvement. The tone of it frequently changed from being a coming of age drama to a family film and then back again, which I found slightly confusing. However the performances are genuinely emotionally resonant and the narrative itself is interesting and inspirational. Despite having one of the most unredemptive endings i've ever seen for what was meant to be, essentialy, a film partly about redemption. It's sweet yet edgy, and it maintains as a good example of classic British cinema.
Northern England, 1969, and life is pretty glum for an introspective lad just finishing up regular school. Its the system, you see, that handles people like products in an immense factory. It breeds ... inhumanity. But one found hobby gives our boy some dignity, and that's the training of a wild creature. Stark and oppressive, Loach's commentary on modern times seen through adolescence rings too true to be ignored.More
Ken Loach's sobering, no-frills look at adolescent perseverance in the face of poverty, cruelty and indifference. The subject matter may be bleak and heartbreaking but the film itself is absolutely brilliant.More
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