The wonderful, horrible life of Billy Casper

Ken Loach is the Palme d’Or–winning director of a brilliant movie called The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Kes, which appeared in 1969, is a much earlier, equally powerful work: Almost unknown in the U.S., it’s one of postwar Britain’s greatest films.

Kes is all about texture, tone, and performance (by a cast of unknown Yorkshire locals). The story involves a bullied boy’s escape from his very sad circumstances, and an unlikely friendship with the kestrel that gives the movie its name. The theme is flight, and the (universal) impossibility of escaping one’s circumstances. Loach’s film is painfully realistic and — if you’ve ever been or known a young person who has felt very out of place in the very place he was born into — very close to home. (Available on DVD, from the Criterion Collection, on April 19.)

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