In 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.
‘Blinded by the Light’ is a charming British coming of age movie from the director of ‘Bend it Like Beckham’, that uses the music of Bruce Springsteen to tell the story of a teenage Pakistani boy growing up in Luton in the 1980s. It is undeniably, unashamedly cheesy, but it has a lot of heart and charm and I was fully won over by the end, although it of course helps that I also really like Bruce Springsteen (although not as much as Sarfraz Manzoor, on whom this story is based!).
Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra) is a teenager from Luton, caught between his strict Pakistani upbringing and his ambitions as a writer, searching for his place in the world like many his age. Out of his home he’s subject to casual racism regularly and doesn’t feel like he fits in, whilst at home he’s kept on a tight leash by his father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), who prevents him from going to parties and spending more time with his friends. Through a friend he meets at college, he discovers Bruce Springsteen, and suddenly everything clicks into place and he discovers his true calling. Of course this is cheesy, but there’s something authentic about the way director Gurinder Chadha transports the music of Springsteen to 1980s Britain, portraying the universality of his songs and their relevance to many people in many different situations, including an introverted Pakistani boy in Luton.
There are a few aspects that made ‘Blinded by the Light’ work for me (besides the great music!), namely the charming performance from Viveik Kalra, who is earnest and likeable, and the grittier subtext that bubbles under the cheese and the Springsteen songs. The film isn’t afraid to highlight the everyday racism people like Javed and his family experience at the time, and in many cases still do, and I felt it strived for and achieved authenticity in portraying the life of an immigrant family in the UK at the time. Not everything works, particularly the occasions when it threatens to break out into a full blown musical – those moments are cringey rather than the good kind of cheese, but this is Gurinder Chadha’s best film since ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ and I found myself really enjoying it overall.
Directed By: Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman and Rob Brydon