Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Hoping to cash in on the goodwill of other rock inspired musicals a-la “Rocketman,” “Yesterday,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” - Gurinder Chadha’s (“Bend It Like Beckham”) Bruce Springsteen-inspired “Blinded By The Light” is the filmmakers best film in years. A winning motion picture that combats heavy issues regarding bigotry and economic depression in London, 1987 as the film follows Javed (Viveik Kalra) - a Pakistaini, British teenager living in a muggy countryside suburb who becomes transfixed by the music of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest superstars.
From the moment he straps on his Walkman headphones and inhales the electric tune that is “Dancing in the Dark” - with the lyrics superimposing on screen behind him, Javed starts to find his faith and purpose in life.
Chandha, whose inaugural soccer film put star Keria Knightly on everyone’s radar - directed the film based on the memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor (who also contributed on the films screenplay) and it represents the kind of safe-guraded summer movie sleeper studios refuse to make anymore. And it’s even more impressive that a major player - Warner Bros - is releasing the Sundance acquired title to a wide audience. In a climate where the little guys are getting vacuumed up left and right, “Blinded By The Light” has the potential to be this years “Crazy Rich Asians.”
At its roots, “Light” is a coming-of-age tale of pride and encouragement - but also an ode to the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll, an element that was missing in the recently released “Yesterday” - to which, this picture is of substantially higher quality. And if the picture becomes a minor hit, you can expect the music sales of Springsteen to soar.
Not that Springsteen needs the exposure, but a film like “Blinded by The Light” has the potential to introduce the icon to a much younger demographic, especially as the music propels Javed to, for the first time in his life, do what he wants. He lives with his Pakistani family in a small housing complex in the factory town of Luton, where his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has worked for the local GM plant 16 years in an effort to pay the bills and make sure his children don’t become engulfed in the influential British culture. The film doesn’t shy away from the brash reality of how Margaret Thatcher’s policies hurt the industry during the recession (including Malik’s eventual layoff).
Javed doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of his relatives, he wants to be a writer. While his dad thinks he’s taking economics at school, he’s studying English literature and churning out some of the most beautiful poems you’d ever heard. Even catching the attention of his teacher (Haley Atwell) who begs him to push his aspirations further.
That’s where Springsteen comes in as the creative influence on his dreams, an escape from his worries and struggles. At school, he wants to leave his mark, and with tunes like “Born to Run” in his back pocket, Bruce slowly starts to become a catharsis for Javed. Whether that’s approaching the local newspaper about publishing his poems, or sneaking into the school DJ’s lounge and blasting top-notch ballads at ear-draining rates, “Blinded By The Light” embraces its irresistibly corny mechanics like a badge of honor.
The film is also about the trials and tribulations of growing up. Chadra doesn’t paint a nice picture in the late ‘80s: from the era of Reagan and Thatcher, the rising unemployment rate in England, and anti-immigrant marches that in hindsight parrell today’s political climate (especially in a post-Brexit world). The fact is, Javed needs this music and aspirations or else he’s stuck in this turmoil, and Viveik Kalra - whose only credit prior to this is a lone television series - has the makings to be a star. He’s a good-looking heartthrob with solid charisma and terrific screen presence. You can’t just manufacture these type of teenage heroes, with his performance harking back to “Say Anything” where John Cusack lifted a boombox over his head.
This punctuated by a knock-out moment in the films climax where Javed gives a speech for a writing award that touches on family and forgiveness, bringing this canopy of rock ‘n’ roll charm full circle. If you’ve ever been touched or moved by a singer or a particular song - maybe some you’re too embarrassed to admit, then “Blinded By The Light” should make for an evocative journey.