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Kes (1969)

Gritty realism has seldom been grittier

Directed by:

Ken Loach

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 110 minutes

UK Certificate: PG


Gritty realism has seldom been grittier than in “Kes”, director Ken Loach's depiction of a young rapscallion growing up in the poor end of town who finds solace in his unlikely friendship with a juvenile kestrel.

Based on the novel “A Kestrel for a Knave” by Barry Hines, this moving classic from way back in 1969 stars David Bradley as Billy, who's finding things tough growing up in a Barnsley housing estate. Picked on at school by both classmates and teachers, and bullied at home by big brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher), Billy seems to be in serious danger of going off the rails completely. But, when he starts to train the fledgling kestrel he finds on a nearby farm, he discovers that not all forms of education emanate from those dreary characterless classrooms.

The film throws up many memorable moments, not least the wrongful punishment of a small boy by loathsome headmaster Mr Gryce (Bob Bowes) and the simultaneously infuriating and funny games class held by the intolerable Mr Sugden (Brian Glover). Only one teacher, the well-meaning Mr Farthing (Colin Welland), even attempts to understand what truly makes his pupils tick. But the deeply sad and sudden ending – itself a rarity in the film world of today – is perhaps what haunts the most.

Though some of the issues have aged and the accents are at times difficult to get to grips with, the story itself is timeless and the message as strong as ever. Bradley, meanwhile, produces an assured and poignant performance in a role which must surely have provided some of the inspiration for the much more recent Brit-flick “Billy Elliot”.

It's Got: The late Brian Glover in one of his most memorable roles as the PE teacher responsible for some seriously dodgy refereeing.

It Needs: Better sound quality on the DVD – some parts are a bit of a strain on the ear.

DVD Extras Original theatrical trailer, and that’s your lot. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10


Billy Elliot


A realistic, moving and at times funny portrayal of the difficulties of life for a youngster growing up in the industrial North.

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