Blinded by the Light, rated PG-13
Blinded by the Light is an entertaining, emotional and heartwarming drama/comedy/musical, inspired by the life of British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love of Bruce Springsteen’s music. It is based on Manzoor’s book Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll. Manzoor, who has seen Springsteen in concert more than 150 times, co-wrote the script with director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), and Paul Mayeda Berges (Bend It Like Beckham). The film’s title is from a Springsteen song that was included on his 1973 debut Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., which Manfred Mann’s Earth Band took to number one in the U.S. in 1977.
The film is set in the town of Luton, north of London in 1987. Manzoor’s character in the film is Javed, well-played by Viveik Kalra. Javed is a 16-year-old Muslim whose parents came from Pakistan. We see Javed and his family experiencing racism. Luton is facing a tough economy and job losses. Javed spends his day writing in his diary – poetry, and lyrics for his best friend’s band – and wants a career as a writer, and to get out of Luton and away from his strict and controlling father Malik, played by Kulvinder Ghir (Bend It Like Beckham). Javed’s father works at an auto plant, before losing his job, and wants Javed to focus on his studies and to be a lawyer or accountant. He tells him to stay away from girls because he will find Javed a wife when the time comes.
Things change for Javed when his classmate Roops, a Sikh from Pakistan, played by Aaron Phagura, gives him two Bruce Springsteen cassettes (Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born in the U.S.A.) and tells him to guard them with his life. He tells him that he can thank him later. We can see the light come on for Javed at listening to his first Springsteen songs, “Dancing in the Dark” and “The Promised Land”, perhaps ourselves remembering the first time we heard a song from “The Boss”. The latter song comes up several times throughout the film. Springsteen’s lyrics, which are creatively projected visually, give Javed the inspiration he needs to follow his dreams. Soon, Javed even begins to dress like Springsteen.
Kalra is excellent as Javed, and the film also features a solid supporting cast. Eliza, played by Nell Williams, is Javed’s likeable politically active love interest. Golden Globe nominee Hayley Atwell (The Pillars of the Earth, Captain America), plays Ms. Clay, Javed’s junior college creative writing teacher and mentor who encourages him to follow his dream as a writer. Screen Actor Guild nominee Deen Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones), plays Javed’s best friend Matt, a member of a punk rock band. Javed’s mother Noor, is a hard-working seamstress, played by Meera Ganatra.
The film does a good job capturing hairstyles and clothing from the late 1980’s. Seventeen Springsteen songs are included in the film, including the previously unreleased “I’ll Stand By You Always”, which plays over the ending credits. Some of the songs are played out in entertaining big dance numbers, Bollywood style.
Unfortunately, the film goes out of its way to connect racism with Margaret Thatcher, not unlike Spike Lee when he tried to connect David Duke with President Trump in BlacKkKlansman.
Themes in the film include following your dreams, hard work, a tense father/son relationship, politics, and racism. Content concerns include a small amount of adult language and racist violence.
Blinded by the Light is an entertaining film that has both serious and light-hearted moments, and is based on the story of a British journalist who was inspired to follow his dreams as a writer after hearing the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. I enjoyed the film which had an excellent message at the end, but was marred by trying to connect the racism against the Pakistanis with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.