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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 9 August 2000
Kes tells the remarkable story of Billy Casper and his relationship with a falcon that he finds, nurtures and trains to fly. But before you dimiss this as a kid's flick- the relationship between Billy and Kes acts as a metaphor. Billy gets more respect from the falcon than he does from his school teacher, his peers or his family. Billy is an outcast, a poor lad who is intelligent beyond his years but no-body is willing to give him a chance.
The scenes featuring Billy and the falcon are quite remarkable. Other standout scenes feature the late Brian Glover as a Sport teacher from hell whose bullying tactics send all the lads at the school reeling.
If you have ever wanted to see a film that recaptures your childhood, the humourous moments, the sad moments and the moments when adults treat you as if you are 5 years old when in reality you are 14/15, see Kes.
A British film to be proud of and definitely one to cherish.
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on 12 December 2004
In the days before Ken Loach made obscure socalist parables he made this wonderfully accessible tale of childhood alienation in the North.
Billy (an astonishingly powerful performance by David Bradley) is a misfit at home and at school, a boy more drawn to the rugged Pennine landscape that surrounds his dreary hometown than to the drudgery of school and to the eventual horrors of working down the pit.
Billy's only friend is Kes - the young kestrel with whom he forms a real bond. Billy falls foul of brutal PE teacher Sugden (the legendary Brian Glover), but younger and more understanding Farthing (the equally excellent Colin Welland) realises that Billy has found his own variety of freedom, happiness and success.
Naturally for any "kitchen sink" drama, Billy's happiness cannot last and the prospect of a crushing non-future in the mines is all that's left to Billy...
Everything about this film is near-perfect. Cinematography, acting, direction, script, location, pacing. You really sense the freedom Billy craves in his relationship with Kes; the suffocating deadness of Barnsley contrasted with the beauty of the Yorkshire landscape; the casual brutality of the school system; the hopelessness of his environment.
And yet despite the ultimately bleak ending there is a grain of hope in the film - you can't take Billy's love of nature away from him, and even if the system tries to crush him there's always the magnificence of nature close by....
A wonderful and unmissable film.
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on 26 October 2003
This is my favourite film of all time. It's gritty and earthy, ultimately a very sad film, for sure, and there are some shocking moments, but its social drama is heightened because it is juxta-posed against some of the funniest scenes ever made in British cinema. The games lesson with Brian Glover, doing his best to humiliate his class, is enshrined in folklore - and anyone who's ever experienced a PE lesson in a British school will relate to it. But all the school and home scenes are equally as realistic at least in part due to the improvised nature of much of the dialogue and the fantastic casting. Forget her drunken performance on Shooting Stars, Lynne Perrie is on top form here.
An american blockbuster Kes certainly aint and fans of such a genre might like to like to carry on lining the pockets of Arnie. But anybody with half a brain will surely not fail to be moved by this exceptional film.
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on 30 May 2004
This is possible my favourite film of all time. The characters and story are so real, it is almost like a fly on the wall documentary. The child actors are fantastic. For a long time I was confused as to wether they were actors or children in an actualy school. The boy that takes the part of Billy Casper is brilliant and I often wonder if he was actually acting or if he was playing himself, and I often wonder what happened to him. The adults are equaly well suited to each role, with Brian Glovers PE teacher being the most memorable.
The story is a sad one that I'm sure has happened thousands of times throughout the land. The story of a young boy from a broken home, that the education system has failed and passed by. The interaction with big brother 'Judd,'and the cruel school children is brilliantly played out. Every aspect of the film is just perfect.
When you consider the budget and hype put into such modern film as The Lord of The Rings etc there is just no comparison. Give me Kes any day.
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on 8 June 2003
I was brought up in Barnsley, where this film was made, in the 1960's and 1970's. The film is so true to life and accurately depicts the lifestyle of the time. The choice of a boy trying to escape his environment by befriending a bird is heart rending, but totally plausible.
Kes is my favourite film of all time and a testament to the best of British low budget film making.
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on 21 December 2002
Kes, starring the 14-year-old David Bradley must be one of the very best British movies ever made. A combination of earthy, compelling scriptwriting, and brilliant casting, has ensured that this movie will be enjoyed by generations to come.
Set in the north of England, about a boy (Billy casper) who adopts and trains a young Kestrel, Kes is a gritty portayal of life in a 1960's mining village. Constantly at war with older brother Jud, the movie revolves around Billy's obsession with his pet, and his struggle to just get by. Unfortunately, Jud is there to make sure that life is far from easy for young Billy.
Lynn Perrie (Coronation street's Ivy Tilsley) is brilliant as the mother, constantly keeping the sons apart, whilst looking for a man to replace the absent father.
To anyone who doubts our ability to produce home-grown movies of quality, I'd say buy this film, if you only buy one this year.
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on 30 May 2007
Plenty as been said about this film, but sometimes the humour is overlooked.

Some of the scenes in the school, with the kids filmed naturally talking the way they do, and improvising, and of course the classic football sequence, all add to the depth and fun of this classic.

All the themes stand the test of time and are always relevant: the battle between the individual and the needs of society, and the tragic neglect of talent brought about by dogmatic and unimaginative thinking.
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Interesting to think that this gritty and very moving film faced difficulties of distribution when it first appeared because of the(entirely authentic) Northern accents of the actors. It was thought that Southerners would find it impenetrable. It's an outstanding film from an excellent book, Barry Hines's 'A Kestrel for a Knave' (in fact, the book is possibly even better than the film, which cannot reproduce in filmic terms its slow, sad, nostalgic conclusion, with Billy's visit to the old cinema). Billy Casper has almost nothing going for him - Mum is more interested in her pathetic 'boyfriend', big brother knocks him about, school is irrelevant and is as little interested in him as he is in it. And then he gets Kes, the kestrel and, mesmerised by its beauty and power, displays intelligence, resourcefulness and commitment that no-one knew he had. Mr. Farthing, the English teacher, is sympathetic, but fate intervenes and it all ends unhappily, with Billy sinking back into his lonely hopelessness. Episodes in the film are genuinely funny - a wonderful school P.E. lesson on the football filed with Brian Glover as a marvellous PE teacher such as, perhaps, we all recognise and wish we had never met - but there can be no silver lining in Billy's world. It is beautifully set, acted and directed and is in every way outstanding.
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on 16 May 2012
Even within director Ken Loach's oeuvre, I suspect that 'Kes' is a one-off, a stand-alone piece. It is a remarkable film. It also has the same sensibility as a BBC 'Play for Today', or 'Wednesday Play' - only crisply shot on film, in colour, and with generally higher production values.

I can think of no other film which captures so perfectly (and uncompromisingly) the essence of a provincial English childhood in the 1960s. It also shows, with unblinking clarity, how youth can be brutalized by the pincer movement of, on the one hand, a harsh and dysfunctional home life, and, on the other, a sadistic school environment.

Billy (the excellent David Bradley) is poor and neglected. One imagines that if he did not steal, then he would very likely starve. He is bullied both at school and at home. One glimmer of light enters his life when he steals a baby kestrel from its nest, and decides to rear it, and learn how to train it, himself. Without giving away the ending, 'Kes' is a sad film, but not, I think, one that is devoid of hope. It is quite possible that having the bird has awakened in Billy a love of nature and the English countryside - things which may come to provide him with both a source of consolation, and a source of employment, in the future. The film does not spell this out, but by its end the seeds of a possible future redemption for Billy are in place. That's what I choose to think, anyway.

The film is beautifully shot and well played by all concerned. But director Ken Loach does not pull his punches, and nor does he flinch from showing us the harshness of Billy's situation.

Beyond the standard options and the theatrical trailer, the DVD has no extras.
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on 13 November 2013
Saw it as a kid myself, and clearly emphasised with the film. Its gritty and heartwarming.
Some of the acting is dated now but taken as a social commentary of the time it is faultless.
The late Brian Glover is hilarious as the school PE teacher, and the name of the actor escapes me, playing Casper, the young boy, who is good. Colin welland is good as the sympathetic teacher, and the overall film is a credit to Ken Loach, and should be be a set text for all junior school kids.
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