Ken Loach is Britain’s most courageous film maker. This 1969 film remains a favourite and, despite the passing of decades, it is still relevant to the world we live in. It starred two actors whose work I followed for many years afterwards- Colin Welland and Brian Glover- but it also starred an unknown as the main character of Billy Caspar. It is typical of Ken Loach, and the equally admirable producer Tony Garnett, that drama school pupils were not approached for the sensitive role of the boy at the bottom of society’s pile.
Billy Caspar does not expect much from life. His single mum doesn’t care much for him and his brother who works down the mine that is sure to claim Billy in its labour force hardly notices him. School is an ordeal but is not exactly the shining beacon of educational aspiration.
Things change when he finds and keeps a kestrel that he names Kes. He is successful at training her and he finds a living thing he can relate to. More than that, he is transported from his immediate surroundings whenever he is with her.
The film has an ending that seems inevitable even as it surprises with only the football scene with the wonderful Brian Glover as the egotistical PE teacher bringing light relief. Yet the film reminds us that there are people who yearn to rise above their situation and that the odds are stacked against them. It is true now, just as it was when the film was made.
‘Kes’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?