Based on a book [A Kestrel for a Knave] by Barry Hines, film tells of a lad brought up in a drab Yorkshire village. He’s the product of a downbeat home with a permissive mum and a drunken, bullying brother. He goes to a school where the kids are also bullies and the teaching staff mainly a bunch of aggressive, unsympathetic, impatient robots. Then he finds a baby kestrel (a small falcon) on the moors. He determines to train the kestrel to fly and from then on he’s a loner, obsessed by his new interest which gives him his first purpose in life.
Simply, the filmmakers have brought the background of the boy’s life vividly into reality. They have surrounded him with local people (only one or two are minor actors) and turned the spotlight on this black side of British education and home life.
The young hero is brilliantly played by David Bradley, particularly in one memorable scene when an understanding master (Colin Welland) persuades him to tell the class about his kestrel and how he trains it.
Filmed entirely on location, Kes sometimes seems rough and ready but much of the moorland stuff is superb, and writing, editing and, above all, Ken Loach’s direction are all done with dedicated affection.