Voted seventh on the
BFI's list of all-time great British films, Kes is an early coming
of age film by Ken Loach, an acclaimed director who has been producing
quality films on themes of social awareness for over 30 years. Based on
the novel by Barry Hines, A Kestrel For A Knave, Kes dramatizes
the grim realities of life for 15-year old Billy Casper (David Bradley)
in the bleak mining town of Barnsley in Yorkshire, England. For Billy,
life offers little hope for the future other than working in the mines.
Disinterested in his studies, the victim of bullies, pushed around by his
deadbeat older brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher), Billy finds a spark only
when he succeeds in raising and training a kestrel (falcon) that he "finds"
on a neighbor's land. Billy's latent intelligence and awareness are brought
to the surface for fleeting moments, especially when his English teacher
Mr. Farthing (Colin Welland) allows him to speak to the class about Kes,
but he is soon overwhelmed by the crush of circumstances at home.
The film has memorable
sequences such as a soccer match during school recess where the Games Teacher,
Mr. Sugden (Brian Glover), a frustrated professional soccer wannabe, takes
over the kids soccer game with hilarious results. Another character you
won't soon forget is Mr. Gryce (Bob Bowes), Billy's School Headmaster from
hell who tortures the errant kids with moral lectures in his office before
caning them. Billy would not win any charming child contests. He lies,
he steals, he fights, he's a slacker, but he is very human and we feel
for him. We want him to break out and achieve but we know the odds are
stacked against him. Kes is gritty, sad, funny, and very moving, a film
that avoids maudlin sentimentality to tell a simple story with an authenticity
you will not easily forget.