Based on a true story about a down-on-his-luck Pakistani teenager named Javed living in Great Britain in the 1980s, who is in a social stranglehold by his strict father. Javed’s bleak outlook becomes changed completely after he is introduced to the music of the All-American legend, Bruce Springsteen.
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha Written by: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, and Dean-Charles Chapman Rated PG-13 for thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs Release date: August 16, 2019 (USA) Run-time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Based on a true story, Blinded by the Light follows the life of Javed, a down-on-his-luck Pakistani teenager living in Great Britain in the 1980s, who is in a social stranglehold by his strict father. He just wants to live a life like any other kid his age, and hang out with his friends, and go to parties, and maybe even meet a girl, but his overbearing dad has other expectations and plans for him. Being that they’re minorities in a foreign country in a time of racism, Javed’s father wants him to keep his head down and put his family first and foremost. That means living the life his father chooses for him, and not being able to live the life he desires. Feeling trapped by his circumstances, Javed’s bleak outlook becomes changed completely after he makes a new friend at school who introduces him to the music of the All-American legend, Bruce Springsteen.
One stormy night, fueled by his frustrations with his family, Javed turns to the cassette tapes he borrowed from his friend, and listens to “The Boss” for the very first time. It’s an instantly cathartic and unforgettably life-changing experience. The words speak to him in a way that no song ever has before. The lyrics speak of his ambitions and know his struggles and pain. It’s as if suddenly through the songs of Springsteen, Javed has found his voice and a guiding light. He’s instantly transformed by it, and is given a purpose and a passion to pursue it. For him, the music is the spark to light the fire to his ambitions; to leave his small town, to escape poverty, to resist his father’s oppression, to live on his own accord, to become a writer, and to feed his hungry heart.
As a writer and a lover of Springsteen myself, I connected with Blinded by the Light on a profoundly personal level. Springsteen’s music has spoken to me in a similar fashion as it does to Javed in the film. While I’m not the super fan that he is, I like to think we all have comparable experiences with certain musical artists who resonate with us deep in our souls. Bruce’s music in particular speaks to the common man, and it rallies against the injustices of the world in the pursuit of the American dream. I can’t think of a single musician that I personally find to be more motivational than him. It is my hope that people will watch this movie, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the music of Bruce Springsteen, and they’ll have a reaction to it much like Javed in this movie.
It goes without saying that the soundtrack in Blinded by the Light is fantastic. It has a nice mix of classic hits as well as some lesser known Springsteen songs, including some live versions, and they’re all put to good use here. Out of all of the recent movies inspired by real-life musicians, including Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, and Yesterday, Blinded by the Light is by far my personal favorite. There are no poor cover songs nor bad lip synching to be found here. What you get is 100% The Boss. In a few parts, the movie even breaks out into full-on dancing musical numbers. While they’re a little cheesy and even feel a bit out of place, I found that they remained true to the music and were simply too much fun not to enjoy. If there’s any real complaints I have about the movie it’s that it drags at times and it feels like it goes on a little too long.
Director Gurinder Chadha does a fine job crafting Javed’s story and all of its complexities while also paying homage to The Boss. The movie explores our innate desire for freedom and finding ourselves, while also exposing the sacrifices we often must make in life for those we love. The film additionally explores social issues of the era, including political turmoil, fascist movements, and racism, which Javed faces first-hand as a Pakistani in England, and which unfortunately still feel uncomfortably relevant today. Javed is played by Viveik Kalra in his motion-picture debut, and he is immensely likable and relatable in his performance. The cast as a whole is pretty good, with the standouts being Hayley Atwell as Javed’s teacher, Ms. Clay, who encourages him to continue with his writing, as well as Kulvinder Ghir, who plays Javed’s controlling father. I also liked Aaron Phagura as Roops, Javed’s loyal Bruce-Springsteen-cassette-tape-sharing friend. We all could use more friends like him!
Overall, Blinded by the Light is a loving tribute to the music of Bruce Springsteen, but more than anything, it’s an emotional, identifiable, and uplifting tale about reaching for your dreams. The struggles that Javed faces resonate brilliantly with the messages of the music, and his story is an inspiring one worth hearing. Springsteen fans in particular definitely won’t want to miss this movie, but I think regardless of your interest or familiarity with Springsteen and his music, you’re likely to find something to enjoy here. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll even walk out of the theater as a fan.
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