Blu-ray Review: Kes (Masters of Cinema)

Along with Mike Leigh, Ken Loach has been the forerunner in British cinema in terms of documenting prevailing social issues and gritty ‘kitchen sink’ realism. His latest film, I, Daniel Blake, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and is generating fevered social and political commentary about the benefits system. However, his best films are more subtle. He received the same recognition for The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a powerful drama about the Irish War of Independence, but Kes remains his most iconic film.

It’s almost time for Billy Casper (David Bradley) to leave school and enter the world of work. He has no intention of following his half-brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher) and working down the pit. However, Billy’s apathetic about the future, disinterested at school and has a history of petty crime behind him. When one day he discovers a kestrel at a local farm he decides to train it; finally finding an interest and purpose to his life.

Kes is still a profoundly moving and emotive film. It’s a snapshot of what life was like in poor northern mining communities in the late ‘60s. There are brilliant supporting performances from Brian Glover as the Manchester United obsessed PE teacher and Lynne Perrie as Billy’s mother. Based on a novel by Barry Hines, it was a staple during my youth and deserves to be appreciated and loved by a new generation.

Special Features:

  • Brand new digital restoration of the film, supervised and approved by director Ken Loach
  • Alternate release soundtrack, with post-dubbed dialogue
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Exclusive new video interviews with actor David Bradley and producer Tony Garnett
  • Excerpts from the 2006 Kes reunion panel at the Bradford Film Festival featuring Ken Loach
  • Extensive 1992 on-stage interview at the NFT with Ken Loach, interviewed by Derek Malcolm
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A booklet featuring new writing on the film and archival material

Kes is released on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on Monday.

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