D: Kenneth Loach
United Artists/Woodfall (Tony Garnett)
UK 1969 (released 1970)
W: Kenneth Loach, Tony Garnert & Barry Hines [based on the novel "A Kestrel For A Knave" by Barry Hines]
DP: Chris Menges
Ed: Roy Watts
Mus: John Cameron
David Bradley (Billy Casper), Lynn Perrie (Mrs. Casper), Freddie Fletcher (Jud), Colin Welland (Mr. Farthing), Brian Glover (Mr. Sugden)
A gloomy piece of working class Britain at the turn of the 1970's, when the North of England's mining industry was still thriving and the career prospects for most of the pupils at a small Barnsley school was to work in the coalmines.
One of the schoolboys is Billy Casper, whose bullying older brother works in the mines and mother lives on the breadline. Despite coming from the town's poor estate, Billy has a job as a paperboy and tries his best to stay out of trouble after prior altercations with the police, but the teachers at his local school always find a way to punish him merely for his past transgresses. Billy finds some escapism when he finds a nest of young kestrels in the woods and, after stealing a book about falconry, studies on how to train one, which allows his own confidence to grow and outlook on life develop.
Kes has some uplifting moments, particularly in a scene where one of the school's teachers begins to see the potential that Billy has as he talks about his hobby, but is ultimately a depressingly bleak drama about a life of a routine which can never be broken.
A classic of British cinema, whose influence has been felt in films made since (Billy Elliot, a perfect example) and though some of the production values, scenarios and lines of dialogue feel a little dated, it remains as powerful as it ever was.