Rarely do we find such kind of maturity and intense vision of the director in his first film telling the story of working class boy, but Kenneth Loach’s this debut film is absolutely worthy enough to enlist in some of the finest British films ever made. Based on Barry Hines’ novel ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’, it shows us the grim life of 15 years old lad named Billy Casper suffering from abuse and exploitation both at home and school. At home it’s his working class elder brother who’s bullying him and at school his strict and exploitive teachers and principal. One day he catches a glimpse of flying hawk and soon he raises, nurtures and trains the hawk, calling it ‘Kes’. The bird is the only positive high and motivation amid all his frustration and oppression meddling with job, school and family. How amid all darkness of reality the lad grows up following the intuitive bird that preparing him for the skill and spirit to fly against the wind.
Loach executed the film as natural and realistic as possible avoiding sentimental clichés, giving enough time and space to develop each scenes and documenting the postindustrial age and shifting social milieu and generation without being loud or overdramatic. David Bradley as Billy is one of the most memorable kid performance I’ve ever seen. There’s many memorable moments- the football game between boys, PT teacher’s frustration and sadist punishment, the boy caned by the principal, Billy explaining his hawk training in the class. And the hawk here isn’t just another silly pet that he’s rearing, he knows well that it’s an instinctive bird and like a mature young philosopher he’s explaining his teacher- ‘Hawks can’t be tamed, they’re manned. It’s wild and fierce and it’s not bothered about anybody. Not bothered about me and that’s what makes it great.’ The bird is nothing but a symbol of intuitive freedom that the kid yearns.