Review: Blinded by the Light
Blinded by the Light is this year's least cynical film. Wearing its heart on its sleeve, the film is a rare feel-good film that uses its enthusiasm and earnestness as a strength. It pushes to the edge of cheesiness but remains authentic and joyful. You may not be a Springsteen fan going into the film but you will want to be by the end of it.
Set in 1987 in Margaret Thatcher's England, the film follows a Pakistani teen named Javed (Viveik Kalra). Racial tensions are high as The National Front targets Muslims. Many are losing their jobs, including Javed's father. This is a dark time in Britain's past. Javed lives in the small, dull town of Luton. He dreams of America or any promised land that gets him out of Luton and away from his family. Javed dreams of being a writer yet his family wants him to be something more practical.
His life is changed when his schoolmate and friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) introduces him to "The Boss." Two key Springsteen albums catapult Javed into the biggest fan, Born in the U.S.A. and Darkness on the Edge of Town. These albums speak to Javed on a deeply personal level. One of the brilliant things about this film is how easy it is to substitute Springsteen for an artist that means something to you. We have all been moved to song, feeling it spoke directly to us. Blinded by the Light capture this feeling beautifully, often having the lyrics appear directly on the screen as Javed listens to them.
Director Gurinder Chadha sprinkles in specific details about Javed's home life and Pakistani heritage. Javed's dream clashed with traditional Pakistani values. Javed's father wants him to live for his parents, not for himself. Javed sees how unhappy his father is and wants a better life, one that he chooses. This tension and specificity of the family dynamic elevate the film even when it falls back on familiar tropes. Blinded by the Light is very much a "follow your dreams tale" that we have seen before in terms of its trajectory. However, the charm of the film and its details make it memorable.