Peter Bradshaw: The Guardian Friday October 1, 1999
Re-released after 30 years, Ken Loach’s Kes – produced by Tony Garnett, photographed by Chris Menges – is a viscerally powerful, raw, almost primitivist work, with a much rougher technical feel than the contemporary social-realist television work which made its creator’s name. It is set in unswinging Barnsley in 1969 – though it could be 1959 or even ’49.
Billy Casper, played by an awe-inspiringly confident non-professional David Bradley, is a boy let down by the school system who ecstatically discovers a wild kestrel and finds he can train it, imbibing the bird’s dignity and self-belief. I must confess to being agnostic about Kes, on account of a strain of pious defeatism and miserabilism that appears to colour its ending. But this is a film of passionate conviction, with cracking performances from Colin Welland, Brian Glover and Lynne Perrie. The sheer idealism puts our modern cinema to shame. It is this week’s must-see.