Posted on 11/27/11 02:24 PM
Ken Loach's acclaimed 1973 film "Kes" is one of the saddest films I've ever seen, literally ever. 90% percent of this film is shown with scenes displaying the public disapproval of small loner Billy Casper; be it by his teachers, peers, or family. No matter where he gos there is always Something someone finds to disapprove of in poor Billy: His appearance, attitude, or just the simple fact that he exists. He is a kid whose past is percieved as horrible, present is obiviously miserable, and whose future is looking as dim as the mine shaft he's destined to plunge into. But in all of this darkness there is one small bright shade of light: Kes. A beautiful kestrel taken from a monastery wall by Billy. He seems to be the only thing in this world that Casper takes a natural interest to. "It's just a bird!" His mother shouts, but it's not. Its his sole reason left for existing.
We have all felt down and out in our lives, but only a few of us have ever reached the level of hopelessness that fills Billy's life. The flying scenes with Billy and kes are brief but beautiful, for they show a kid regaining his reason to live when his society told him he had none. "They beat him. They Deprived him. They Ridiculed him. They Broke his heart. But they could not break his spirit." That is the tagline for this film, and I don't think they could've made one that summed up this film better. In some ways I believe that Kes represents Billy in that he feels the need to take flight, to go make something of himself, but is trapped by the forces of his own environment (that leash).
At Kes' Conclusion we are left in want of a resolution, but are sadly denied it. That to me is what makes the film so painful, we hope deep down that Billy finds a way out of his current situation but everything looks doubtful. All I keep thinking is how many children out there share a similar childhood to Billy's, and all I hope is that each of them has their own Kes. Because without hope, without that spirit, what reason is there for living?
This is not a film that would be enjoyed by a massive american audience. This is not Old yeller and it is certainly not Free Willy. Many will find it overly depressing (which isn't an irrational complaint) and the thick yorkshire accents are difficult to follow (These are not Gosford Park accents). But I would state that this film is incredible for its poigancy, emotional power and the very natural performance by David Bradley. The cinematography is exceptional, especially since the film had such a meager budget, and Ken Loach's directing is acclaimed for a reason. If you are looking for a film with a powerful emotional impact, thou can't go wrong with Kes.