The streets of Luton become a playground and problem for a young man, in this drama-comedy set to the hits of singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen. Inspired by a true story and directed by ‘Bend it like Beckham’ talent Gurinder Chadha, this is a feel-good movie with enough cheer to outweigh the negatives.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) enjoys music and writing poems but with his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) being a tight hold on values and so-called ‘proper’ job prospects, Javed finds it hard to believe his passion can go further. After schoolmate Roops (Aaron Phagura) gives him some Bruce Springsteen cassette tapes, Javed becomes fully swept away and finally sees a chance to follow his dream but at what cost to his family life?
‘Blinded by the Light’ is an uplifting musical tale about a Pakistani teenager developing a connection to the power of something other than synth. Javed most certainly gets blinded by the light and lyrics of Springsteen and there’s enjoyment to be had in seeing his unabashed exuberance but there does also come a time when he gets too selfish, he grows offish with his family and a new found girlfriend which jeopardises his character slightly but thanks to a spirited and runaway performance from Kalra, you cannot help but root for the lad.
What stands up strongest with this film is the heart. Chadha and scribes Sarfraz Manzoor and Paul Mayeda Berges safeguard the integrity of family and home over all things, so even if the tunes of Bruce have you merrily tapping a foot, you’ll always realise how much more powerful the values of the characters are. The core of the film is with Javed and his father and their rocky relationship, it serves as the rhythm of the piece and you do get fairly wrapped up into the developing nature of their back and forth.
The Boss has no doubt produced some absolute blinders and his music gilds the movie with a gravelly and soulful edge. A couple of songs rip out of the story, living it large like a semi-musical number, with bystanders dancing along, yet the vocals of the New Jersey artist take precedent, with the actors’ singing dialled down underneath the likes of “Born to Run”. The thing is, they have good voices and if you’re having them race across Luton, gleefully singing their hearts out, then it’d be nice to see the sequence as a full musical; their performances being the one and only after Bruce kicks them off.
Also their does come a sort of kitchen-sink melodrama to the film in places, perhaps a feeling of sentimentality going too far but if you can overlook this soapy nature then the film is joyous. The only real gripe is a segway out of the UK which is a little overboard and cringey, only because it removes the plight of Javed and his inner conflict in Thatcher’s depressing Britain, leading the way with silly postcards and then a sudden cutback to Luton living.
As the 16 year old Pakistani opens his eyes and mind to the rock and folk styles of Springsteen, lyrics appear on screen nicely signifying his awakening to a new world. As part of the audience you too shall have your eyes opened by an upbeat film. ‘Blinded by the Light’ bursts out of denim seams and walks in the sun of feel-good wonder.