Blinded by the Light – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Dean-Charles Chapman, Aaron Phagura
Based on a true story, from the director of Bend it like Beckham and named after a 1973 track by Bruce Springsteen this coming of age tale is completely inspired by the music of The Boss. Not only that but Bruce himself apparently approves of it and they have managed to get the rights to many of his songs so it hits cinemas with some serious credibility in its back pocket.
Set in 1987, it follows gangly teen Javed (Kalra), as he struggles with racial and economic turmoil. Although born in Britain his Pakistani family are extremely traditional and many of the things he enjoys are frowned upon or forbidden. To escape the stresses of his daily life he writes poetry but doesn’t share it with others. When a classmate introduces him to the music of The Boss he immediately sees parallels in their working class existence and struggles. Completely reinvigorated and inspired and using the Boss as his kicking off point he manages to find outlets for his creativity and begins a journey that will take him far from his Luton hometown.
Like many of Chadha’s films this looks at the struggles faced by Indian families in the UK – both racial and generational. Kalra (in his feature debut) does a great job of capturing all these additional elements alongside the standard teenage angst. Even if you are not a fan of Springsteen his energy is infectious as he delves deeper into his hero’s world and you will find yourself tapping your feet. Although there are some well known names in this their appearances are actually rather fleeting and (other than Rob Brydon who is extremely OTT) they don’t distract from the central story overall.
The era is perfectly captured with all the characters committing numerous crimes against fashion – as was the style of the day. It feels completely authentic. The script does contain a couple of improbable moments but it turns out that they actually happened proving that fact is indeed stranger than fiction. The soundtrack features a wealth of 80s classics alongside Bruce’s music and it is used extremely effectively and is sure to stir a few memories in people.
Apparently Chadha had difficulty getting this funded which is surprising as it is completely feel good and life affirming. It does suffer a bit with pacing in some parts but overall it is joyous. Anyone who has ever danced around their bedroom to their music hero will totally relate to this and it’s impossible to leave this without a smile on your face. Far better than the rather underwhelming Yesterday this is an ode to the power of music that will make you believe anything is possible.