Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Rating (out of 5): ****½
Poor 15 year-old Billy Caspar. His father is gone, his mother is distant, his brother is a bullying lush, and his schoolmaster has dubbed him inconsequential, another disposable member of "the generation that never listens." All that awaits Billy is to fail high school and join his peers over at the coal mine that functions as the only industry in the depressed Yorkshire hamlet Billy calls home.
But on one of Billy's frequent wanderings through the surrounding woods and farmlands, he discovers a young kestrel (the eponymous Kes). He endeavors to train the bird and, in the process, discovers a purpose outside of the brutal determinism governing his working class milieu. The above synopsis - boy escapes oppressive childhood via feathered friend - could easily devolve into cliché and treacle. However, with Kes, Ken Loach rose to the forefront of visionary, British social realist directors by turning a time worn tale into an indelible meditation on childhood and (naturally, this being Loach) class struggle.