Film review: ‘BLINDED BY THE LIGHT’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Blinded by the Light, the title of course coming from a Bruce Springsteen song, falls into that sub-genre of quirky, feel-good British working class comedy/dramas like Brassed Off, Pride, The Full Monty and Billy Elliot. This film has the energy and charm typical of these movies but also their predictability and occasional cheesiness.

This film is based on the real-life story of Sarfraz Manzoor here presented as Pakistani teen Javed (Viveik Kalra). Javed faces a multitude of obstacles in life. As a young Pakistani growing up in a strict patriarchal household he’s compelled to adhere to a traditional life-style, something that impedes his artistic and romantic interests. Also, as a non-white person in economically depressed Thatcherite Britain of the 80’s, he’s frequently confronted by aggressive racism. A sensitive teen, Javed dreams of becoming a writer but he’s too timid to reveal his poems and essays to others. When his soon-to-be best mate Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) introduces him to Bruce Springsteen’s soaring working class anthems and epic romantic tunes, Javed becomes obsessed with ‘The Boss’ and is inspired to be more courageous and embrace life but this brings a new set of challenges and conflicts.

As well as its intermingling of socio-political references to race, family values, economic hardship and bigotry, Blinded by the light, perhaps more than anything, captures the teenage experience, particularly awkward romance and music obsession. In that respect it shows how a love of music can be life-affirming but like an addiction, can, as the title suggests, blind people to the world around them. Overwhelmingly, though Javed’s discovery of Bruce is seen as invigorating.

With its clear linear narrative of self-discovery and its focus on a particular artist, the film seems ready made for a stage musical adaptation. Not surprisingly, this film features a terrific soundtrack full of Bruce classics including two helpings of Born to Run. There are even set pieces where Javed and his friends perform Springsteen songs while dancing through the streets.

Efficiently directed by Bend it Like Beckham’s Gurinder Chadha with a sprightly script by Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges and Sarfraz Manzoor himself, Blinded by the Light is a warm and moving piece of popular entertainment that, without prosecuting them in depth, touches on important social issues. It adheres to a now familiar template but its charm is undeniable.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Biopic/ comedy/ drama.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Gurinder Chadha.

Release date: 24th Oct 2019.

Running time: 114 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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