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Bleak but beautiful tale of freedom
on 31 January 2003
AKFAK contains the harsh reality of life for a boy, Billy, mistreated at home and at school and fated to work in a dead end job in the mines. His escape is his kestrel that he has reared and trained from a chick.
Hines never sweetens the story with false sentiment but keeps all the action gritty and realistic. What is surprising is that it is very easy to sympathise with Billy despite his prickliness, bad manners and violence. Hines portrays him, as a normal boy brought up in poverty without any aspirations- his bad behaviour is a product of these social elements rather than his true self.
There is a strong sense of love underneath the frustration and anger. Billy lives for his kestrel and his sense of devotion is what lifts an otherwise bleak social study to more optimistic levels. The Casper family have a strange mixture of violence, jealousy and love between them- it seems that despite the anger and threats their family must stick together.
The film, Kes, although very similar to the book and a wonderful work in its own right, has a different ending- perhaps motive enough for the film's many fans to read the book and see what really happened.
AKFAK mixes vivid descriptions of the countryside and small industrial town with fleshed out characters with great dialogue and a story that's simplicity tells a moving and plausible tale of hope and grim realism.