Based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines, Kes is the story about a fourteen-year-old miner’s son who bonds with a wild kestrel in his working class town. Directed by Ken Loach and screenplay by Loach, Barry Hines, and Tony Garnett, the film is an exploration into the life of a boy living in a dreary world where he finds hope in a bird. Starring David Bradley, Freddie Fletcher, Lynne Perrie, Colin Welland, and Brian Glover. Kes is a touching and heartwarming film from Ken Loach.
Billy Casper (David Bradley) is a fourteen-year-old boy who lives in a Yorkshire working class area where his older brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher) works as a miner while their mother (Lynne Perrie) also works as she has little time for Billy. Facing a horrible prospect of becoming a miner and already a bleak life filled with working as a paperboy and going to school where he has a hard time paying attention. Billy comes across a couple of flying kestrels near a farm where he takes a baby kestrel that he names Kes as he grows to care for it. Despite the bleak outlook of his life at home and at school where he’s teased by other kids, Billy grows to love Kes as he eventually tells a story in class where his English teacher (Colin Welland) suggests to Billy about a possible world where Billy can escape from the world of the coal mines.
The film is a simple tale of a boy who finds a baby kestrel and teaches it how to fly as it gives him a sense of escape in his Yorkshire mining town. Throughout the film, this young boy has to endure all of the troubles of his life at home where he’s neglected by his mother and treated with cruelty by his older brother. At school, he’s teased by some kids for being poor while being treated badly by teachers for not paying attention or just getting into trouble that includes a selfish football coach. Yet, it’s this kestrel that gives Billy Casper a sense of hope despite the prospect that he might face a life that is very bleak. The screenplay that Ken Loach, Tony Garnett, and its novelist Barry Hines create is unconventional due to its lack of plot as it centers a lot on this boy and his relationship with the kestrel.
Ken Loach’s direction is truly a marvel to watch in the way he creates a film that is sentimental at times but filled with a lot of realism as it’s shot largely on location in Yorkshire and is presented in a cinema verite style. With these gorgeous compositions of the locations including some wide shots of these locations, Loach’s direction also has a looseness for the way many of the people in the film act in front of the camera. A lot of them are non-actors where there’s a lot of humor in the scenes such as the football match where the gym teacher tries to cheat his way in the game. The film also has an ending where it’s quite powerful where its sentimentality is earned where it’s a very heartbreaking ending considering what the boy might face and how attached he’s become towards this kestrel. Overall, Loach creates a truly powerful and enchanting film about a boy and a kestrel.
Cinematographer Chris Menges does excellent work with the photography to capture the beauty inside the bleak world of Yorkshire with its factories and open landscapes as Menges work is a major highlight. Editor Roy Watts does terrific work with the editing in utilizing jump-cuts for some fast-paced sequences along with fade-outs to smooth out the transitions. Art director William McCrow does nice work with the minimal set pieces such as the home that Billy lives in. Sound recorders Gerry Humphreys and Tony Jackson do wonderful work with the sound to capture the raucous location of the party that Jud and Billy‘s mother attend that includes a live band and such while the rest of it is very sparse in the locations where some scenes are set.
The film’s score by John Cameron is incredible for its flute-driven score to play up the sense of innocence that is presented in the film as it also includes a few heavy orchestral pieces for dramatic reasons.
The film’s cast is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it includes Bernard Atha as a youth employment officer, Colin Welland as the sympathetic Mr. Farthing, Brian Glover as the school’s strict headmaster, Bob Bowes as the school’s cruel gym teacher, and Lynne Perrie as Billy’s neglectful mother. Freddie Fletcher is very good as Billy’s cruel older brother who berates him for not being helpful and such as he would play a key role in the film’s climatic third act. Finally there’s David Bradley in a phenomenal performance as Billy Casper where Bradley brings a great energy and realism to a boy seemingly lost in his bleak world until he finds a baby kestrel that he grows to care for as he is among one of the film’s highlights along with the kestrel used in the film.
Kes is a magnificent film from Ken Loach that features a phenomenal performance from David Bradley. The film is definitely one of Loach’s great works for the way he tenderly tells a story about a boy and a bird that will touch anyone who loves films about kids and animals. Yet, it’s a film that does more as it provides insight into a bleak world of Britain where there’s a semblance of hope that is available for a young boy. Kes is truly a film that will touch anyone that loves a story between a boy and an animal as it is told with great care and mastery from someone like Ken Loach.
Ken Loach Films: (Cathy Comes Home) - (Poor Cow) - (Save the Children Fund Film) - (Family Life) - (The Price of Coal) - (Black Jack) - (The Gamekeeper) - (Looks and Smiles) - (Which Side Are You On?) - (Fatherland) - (Hidden Agenda) - (Riff-Raff) - (Raining Stones) - (Ladybird Ladybird) - (Land and Freedom) - (A Contemporary Case of Common Ownership) - (Carla’s Song) - (The Flickering Flame) - (McLibel (1997 film)) - (My Name is Joe) - (Bread and Roses) - (The Navigators) - Sweet Sixteen - (Ae Fond Kiss…) - (Tickets) - (McLibel (2005 film)) - The Wind That Shakes the Barley - It's a Free World... - Looking for Eric - (Route Irish) - (The Angels’ Share)
© thevoid99 2012