Blinded by the Light (2019)
Directed by Gurinder Chadha
Based on the book Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor
Inspired by the words and music of Bruce Springsteen
Screenplay by Gurinder Chadha, Sarfraz Manzoor, Paul Mayeda Berges
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Dean-Charles Chapman, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, Meera Ganatra
In 1987, a Pakistani teenager discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen while trying to navigate an uncertain future. The music soon becomes a guiding light for a young man looking for his own path amidst the expectations of his family and his culture.
This film is based on the book Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor (Dying to be Beautiful). Manzoor also co-wrote the script along with director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and Paul Mayeda Berges (Viceroy’s House). Beginning with the title, the film is heavily influenced by the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. The stars of the film include Viveik Kalra (Next of Kin), Dean-Charles Chapman (Man Up), Kulvinder Ghir (Those Four Walls), Nell Williams (The Audience), Aaron Phagura, and Meera Ganatra (Three Dots and a Dash).
This movie follows Javed (Kalra), a young man caught up in a tumultuous time in UK history. With the economy in turmoil and discrimination rampant, this story plays out in front of a complicated backdrop. This is the setup that the writers started with before diving into a unique and entertaining journey of growth for Javed and many around him. The complications in the lives of the characters help to give this a lot of emotional depth. Without that depth this film would likely be nothing more than a predictable coming-of-age story. The well-written dialogue helps to accentuate the cultural struggle between Javed and his family. This one also addresses the challenges that come when teenagers are faced with parents from a different generation. What really makes this one unique is the stylized use of music. Bruce Springsteen songs become characters on their own throughout this one. There are powerful moments where the writers used the classic lyrics within the dialogue. While this might be built within a familiar genre, there’s something unique that helps this one rise above many similar films.
The performances throughout this movie are a lot of fun. Playing in the central role, Viveik Kalra does a great job finding the deeper emotional struggle within his character. He also has wonderful chemistry with the rest of the cast. Kalra finds an incredible connection with Kulvinder Ghir, and their father-son dynamic feels very real. Ghir does a lot of great work throughout the movie. Meera Ganatra also delivers a wonderful performance, playing Javed’s loving and often worried mother. Nell Williams also has a great connection with Kalra throughout the movie. Their scenes together bring out the innocent kind of affection that the story needs. Dean-Charles Chapman and Aaron Phagura do nice work playing friends to Javed. Their comfort level with one another gives authenticity to the relationships. Viveik Kalra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, and Dean-Charles Chapman all bring a youthful energy to this film. The energy they give to the film brightens things up at just the right moments. The rest of the cast also does great work throughout the film.
Most of this film plays it safe, using visuals that work within the world of the story. This is competent work that keeps things moving along nicely. It’s when the rules are broken that this one really stands out. The movie mixes visuals and music into unique moments of artistic expression. This is blended into the film almost seamlessly, and never takes the audience out of the story. The movie is edited nicely, and it moves along at a great pace. The art direction also does great work bringing the world of 1987 to life.
Blinded by the Light is a pseudo-musical inside of a fantastic coming-of-age tale, and it’s worth the watch. If you’re a fan of Springsteen this is a good chance to revisit some classic tracks. If you’re not, don’t be afraid. This movie isn’t fan service for Springsteen fans, the writing transcends the artist and tells a very relatable story. All of the elements come together and make this one worth checking out. I give this one 4.3 out of 5 stars.