Kes (1969)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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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
PG-13 (for language, nudity and some teen smoking)
Art House & International , Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Image Entertainment


David Bradley
as Billy Casper
Lynne Perrie
as Mrs. Casper
Colin Welland
as Mr. Farthing
Brian Glover
as Mr. Sugden
David Glover
as Tibbutt
Joey Kaye
as Comedian at Pub
Bill Dean
as Fish and Chip Shop Man
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Kes

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (6)

Kes is one of the most astute, engaged films about education and what it takes for kids to be excited about learning or passionate about anything, really, whether in the classroom or roaming the fields with a feathered friend.

Full Review… | March 14, 2015
Time Out
Top Critic

A classic of British social realism.

Full Review… | April 18, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Simply, the filmmakers have brought the background of the boy's life vividly into reality.

Full Review… | April 18, 2011
Top Critic

Terrific performances, illuminated by Chris Menges' naturalistic but often evocative photography.

June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | May 8, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Kes is Loach at his best.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Kes

An achingly beautiful tale. The bucolic music and the landscapes wandered by the formidable protagonist child and his trained kestrel, embellish the cold and austere north of England. The child's tender look upon the bird is that of yearning, of high spirit and care free mind, far beyond the predicaments of acceptance raised in his school and in his own home. Its gritty, unapologetic and sometimes despairing naturalism hits delicate fibres.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


[img][/img] 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.

Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

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.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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