Dan's Review: "Blinded by the Light" pays homage to the "The Boss"
Aug 16, 2019 03:17PM
By Dan Metcalf
Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, and Viveik Kalra in Blinded by the Light - © 2019 Warner Bros.
Blinded by the Light (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs.
Starring Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Dean-Charles Chapman, Aaron Phagura, Meera Ganatra, Jonno Davies, Sally Phillips.
Written by Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, and Sarfraz Manzoor, based on "Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll" by Sarfraz Manzoor.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha.
Every “coming of age” story needs a soundtrack. For some movies, the music is the catalyst for a teen’s passage into their adult self. Such is the case for Blinded by the Light, a semi-autobiographical story from Sarfraz Manzoor, a Muslim-Pakistani immigrant to Britain who deals with the confluence of his heritage and his quest for freedom inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Viviek Kalra plays Javed, a young man struggling to find a path in his life as he finishes high school. Javed feels trapped by his father’s strict Muslim upbringing, trapped by the economic hardship of the late 1980s recession, trapped by anti-Muslim persecution in his suburban English community and trapped by limited options to improve his outlook. All of that changes when Roops (Aaron Phagura), a Sikh friend introduces Javed to the music of “The Boss.” In Springsteen’s lyrics, Javed finds his muse, with tales of escaping to a mythical “promised land.” Javed discovers his voice through writing, poetry, and a new romance with Eliza (Nell Williams), who appreciates his love for Springsteen. Javed is also inspired by his progressive teacher Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) who pushes him to enter his writings into academic competitions and apply for college. Javed’s new path does not sit well with his dad (Kulvinder Ghir), who struggles to keep his family together after being laid off from the local factory. As the frustration over his apparent lack of prospects for a better life and the conflicts of racism continues, Javed seeks comfort in Springsteen’s songs. He eventually makes a tough choice between his family, religious couture and his future as a writer.
Blinded by the Light accomplishes two things: it pays homage to Springsteen’s music as a source of inspiration to seek a better life and it offers a sweet story that accurately captures the conflicts of passing from a difficult childhood into a promising life as an adult If you’re a fan of “The Boss,” Blinded by the Light is an affirmation of Springsteen’s truly “American” story, even though the movie shows plenty of evidence that the message behind his lyrics can be universal.
Among a mostly unknown cast, Kalra’s performance is perfect for the role, seizing one of those truly universal moments of passage. Ghir’s performance as Javed’s father is also noteworthy, portraying the heartfelt struggles of a man trying to keep his family’s cultural heritage intact in a foreign setting with so many divergent influences.
If you aren’t a Springsteen fan, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. To those who are not familiar with Bruce’s stuff, maybe the movie will open your eyes to his talent for vocalizing the American spirit of discovery. On the other hand, non-Bruce fans can still glean a little wisdom about family and the difficult process of growing up.
Speaking of the music, some of Springsteen’s songs are used in “musical” moments in Blinded by the Light, with characters singing and dancing into the narrative. Some of these moments work, and others feel a little forced, but they do not detract from the overall appeal of the movie.
"Blinded by the Light" trailer