Kes (1970)

The tough, touching story of a northern schoolboy and the kestrel that brings hope to his hardscrabble life remains the most widely admired of Ken Loach’s films.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • A Kestrel for a Knave Working
  • A Pocket of Silence Working


“I saw Kes at film school and I knew then that I’d willingly make coffee for Ken Loach.”
Krzysztof Kieslowski, Kieslowski on Kieslowski, 1994

Loach made his name directing television plays, but it was his second cinema feature Kes that demonstrated the extent of his cinematic imagination. Adapted from Barry Hines’s novel A Kestrel for a Knave, it tells of fifteen-year-old Billy Casper (David Bradley), who seems destined for a life in the coal mines of his home town, Barnsley. But Billy’s discovery of a kestrel, and his dedication in training it, give him optimism – however temporary.

Chris Menges’s cinematography is as lyrical as John Cameron’s score, which seems to reflect Billy’s hidden potential while simultaneously sounding cautionary notes. Loach’s relaxed direction of a cast that includes ex-wrestler Brian Glover and future Chariots of Fire writer Colin Welland is as impressive as the unsentimental tenderness with which he depicts Billy’s life.

Loach and cinematographer Menges collaborated again on several films, from Black Jack (1979) to Route Irish (2010). Menges made his own directing debut with A World Apart (1988).

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