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Film / Kes

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Kes is a 1969 film by Ken Loach, based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. It starred (relatively) unknown actors with perhaps a handful that people might recognise, which has led to the movie being categorised by film historians as a social realist movie. It was Loach's second film that he ever made and became a Breakthrough Hit when released, although the thick-accented characters made the film stumble a little outside of the UK.

In the mining town of Barnsley in Yorkshire, fifteen-year-old Billy Casper (David Bradley) is the child pariah of the area. He is bullied at home and school by everyone, making his mother feel as if she can never understand him. This is probably because Billy has a history of stealing, but has left it behind him (although he'll occasionally steal some eggs and milk), and nobody wants to trust him. With the whole world seemingly against him, Billy becomes interested in kestrels and uses his skills of deception, sneakiness, and theft to try and train the animal falconry.



  • Kids Are Cruel: It's rare to find a kid that is nice to Billy.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: From the regional accents to the bleak ending, this is definitely a social realist film.
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  • Meaningful Name: Kes is obviously short for kestrel, the name of the species of the bird.
  • Precision F-Strike: One use of "twat" and several uses of "bugger" was enough for the British censors to argue over whether the movie should be rated as suitable for all or a PG. It later settled on a PG.
  • Oop North: This film is set in Yorkshire.
  • Sadist Teacher: Nearly all the teacher characters in Kes are portrayed as very cruel and terrible people who constantly abuse their power and look for any excuse to punish and scream at a student, even for coughing!
  • Teens Are Monsters: Jud. When Billy doesn't bet on any horses, he retaliates by murdering Kes.
  • Would Hurt a Child: As mentioned on Sadist Teacher, The teachers in Kes like to yell at kids for very minor reasons and even slap them or hit them with a cane.


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