Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1969. Kestrel Films, Woodfall Film Productions. Screenplay by Barry Hines, Ken Loach, Tony Garnett, based on the book A Kestrel for A Knave by Barry Hines. Cinematography by Chris Menges. Produced by Tony Garnett. Music by John Cameron. Production Design by William McCrow. Costume Design by Daphne Dare. Film Editing by Roy Watts. National Board of Review Awards 1970.
Billy is often in trouble and not excelling at his studies, the son of a single mother who spends more of his time bearing the brunt of his older brother’s abuse than getting ahead in school. He is declared problematic by his educators, yet when Billy gets a book on training and caring for kestrels (British falcons), he laps up its contents and takes it to heart. In between scenes of his brimstone-and-treacle life we see him out in giant fields with his pet soaring the vast skies, with director Ken Loach far too classy and smart an artist to make a blatant statement about how out of touch the British educational system is with its lower-class participants. Instead it’s a wonderful, powerful and honest film with a very local focus (including accents that might require subtitles; the US print had to be redubbed when it was originally distributed), and yet the target it hits is universal.