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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie's young teen hero works hard to overcome bad behavior, although he is seen stealing milk and a book. His catching and training a kestrel bird helps channel his energy into something positive, taking on a difficult challenge and succeeding. However, there's a general air of defeat and despair as the kids head toward an adulthood filled with rage and disappointment.
Positive Role Models
The young teen hero shows responsibility and maturity in catching and training his kestrel, though he doesn't seem to have much luck in the other aspects of his life. The adults in the movie are shown to be (mostly) bullies, angry and frustrated over life in general.
Violence & Scariness
There are some mildly abusive moments at home as two brothers fight and throw a couple of blows. There's a fight at school between two teens, mostly consisting of wrestling, but with a couple of blows landed. A key animal character dies in a violent incident. Otherwise, there's a general sense of frustration and anger by adults directed at kids.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The young teen hero is seen changing clothes and then in the shower during gym class. His naked bottom is visible. In another scene, the older brother tries to pick up girls at a pub. There is some brief, mild sexual innuendo.
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"Bastard" is heard several times, and "c--k" once or twice. We also hear "Christ" and "hell." Otherwise, most of the language consists of English slang, such as "sod," "twat," "bugger," "bloody," "arse," and "git." Adults tell kids to "shut up."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens are caught with cigarettes at school, though they are not seen smoking. Older characters smoke cigarettes and are seen drinking. The older brother arrives home from the pub, drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic of English cinema is one of the greatest coming-of-age movies ever made, though it's hard to imagine kids under 12 sitting through it today. It's long and grim, not specifically plot-focused, and it doesn't have a happy ending. Though it's in English, the South Yorkshire accents are so strong that it requires subtitles for American viewers. It contains some strong language, including "bastard" and "c--k," as well as some British slang. There is a schoolyard fight and fights between brothers. A key animal character dies in a violent incident, which could upset younger viewers. Young teens are caught with cigarettes, though we don't see them smoking. Adults occasionally smoke and drink beer. Teens with a little patience and a sense of adventure will be strongly rewarded by this superb, powerful movie. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Ken Loach's film is grim and rambling, and without a clear victory, yet it's one of the most powerful coming-of-age stories ever told, containing passages of great beauty. It has come to be regarded in some circles as a children's classic. Based on Barry Hines' book "A Kestrel for a Knave," Loach shoots the film like a documentary, simply observing long sequences of the hero at school, suffering the indignities of both the classroom and the football field.
In any other movie about a boy who trains a kestrel, we might expect that the boy finds his "wings," so to speak. But perhaps less than a quarter of the film's running time is actually devoted to the kestrel. Loach's approach feels more honest and more political, mirroring the kestrel training with the efforts of adults to "train" and control young people, breaking their spirits. None of this dulls the heartbreaking power of the ending: a simple tragedy that cuts through everything and goes straight to the heart.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.