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.
Making "Kes," a new documentary featuring Loach, Menges, Produce Tony Garnett, and Actor David Bradley; The Southbank Show: "Keith Loach," a 1993 Profile; Cathy Come Home (1966), an Early Television feature by Loach, with an afterword by Film Writer Graham Fuller; Alternate, internationally released soundtrack, with postsync dialogue; ; Original Theatrical Trailer; ; Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by Fuller
"Kes" is a movie each viewer needs to discover for himself or herself. Its greatness lies in its utter simplicity and its no frills filmmaking. This story of an adolescent Yorkshire boy who trains a young kestrel to fly at his command is full of brilliant observations of everyday life in late '60s working class Britain. The boy is played is played, unforgettably, by David Bradley as Billy, a misunderstood, bullied and sensitive lad whose home life is compromised by a boorish older brother and a well-meaning but often neglectful mother. Life at school is just as bad, where teachers punish students unmercifully, mirroring their own unhappiness and inadequacies. A long, rather tortuous sequence of Billy and his classmates playing soccer in gym class on a muddy soccer field, overruled by a rather uncaring coach will bring back unpleasant memories for anyone who had to endure the indignities of gym class in high school. These troubling scenes at home and school are juxtaposed with Billy and training his kestrel. In these sequences the boy comes alive, full of life and purpose and his love for "Kes", his pet's name, is obvious in these scenes of the soaring bird flying to the young boy's commands. Director Ken Loach made many films in his illustrious career but "Kes" rightfully takes its place among the greatest British films of the 20th Century. Once you see this beautiful, often brutal and ultimately heartrending film, you will never forget it.