“Blinded By The Light” Is The Exact Kind Of Film This Summers Beatles Fantasy “Yesterday”, Should Have Been. It’s The Ultimate Tribute To The Singer, Songwriter & Rock N Roll Poet Bruce Springsteen. “Blinded By The Light” Shows The Connection & Impact An Artist & Their Music Has On Someone’s Life. Like A Great Springsteen Song, It’s Glorious.
Everyone has had that one celebrity, movie, band or artist that they look up to, feel inspired by, moves them or is just a genuine fan of. “Blinded By The Light” is all of that & plays as the ultimate fandom film to singer, songwriter Bruce Springsteen, the blue-collar New Jersey poet whose lyrics and music spoke directly to a British-Pakistani teenager, who is just trying to survive the cruelties of living in Luton Britain. That teenager was journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who in 2007, published the book “Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock’n’ Roll”.
It documented his childhood in Luton as influenced by his fixation on Springsteen who he’s seen in concert more than 150 times. Manzoor has now joined forces with “Bend It Like Beckham” filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, to bring “BLINDED BY THE LIGHT” to the big screen. The film made headlines at this year’s Sundance Film Festival when Warner Bros. and New Line acquired the film for a decent sum. This is something that is almost unheard of nowadays, as major studios aren’t typically looking in the market for acquisitions at Sundance unless the movie has particular cross-over appeal. Sure enough, Gurinder Chadh’s “Blinded By The Light” is such a film, it has the potential to break out in a big way.
Thankfully Springsteen had granted Chadha extensive rights to his musical catalog, because if he didn’t the film wouldn’t be the same. Chadha plays a Springsteen jukebox from eight of his released albums, starting with 1973’s “Greetings From Asbury Park” to 1987’s “Tunnel Of Love”. In a summer season that’s already celebrated the music of Elton John in this years best film “Rocketman” to “The Beatles” disappointing Danny Boyle musical dramedy “Yesterday”. It only seemed logical to make way for Bruce Springsteen and his working class perspective for “Blinded by the Light”. It’s the best tale of fandom and something of a bio-pic for writer Manzoor. “Blinded by The Light” is even more of an audience-pleaser than “Yesterday” ever was.
The film transfers many of Manzoor’s experiences onto the fictional Javed (Viveik Kalra), a shy kid living in Luton in 1987. He harbours ambitions to become a writer, who likes to write poems and songs, despite his father Malik’s (Kulvinder Ghir) wishes that he become either a doctor or lawyer (the fact he has two choices of career path is, according to Malik, a sign that he’s a generous parent). Not that his best friend, Matt (Dean-Charles Chaplin) understands him much better. He can’t see why Javed would want to write songs about the Cold War and of Regan, when all that should be important to him is hot girls and synth music. What finally punctures Javed’s sense of loneliness are the two Springsteen cassette tapes (“Born In The USA” and “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”) that are handed to him by his classmate Roops (Aaron Phagura), who tells him: “Bruce is the direct line to all that is true in this s****y world”.
Chadha assembles a killer cast, mostly filled with newcomers, and like her previous film “Bend It Like Beckham” expect some future stars to emerge. Lead actor Viveik Kalra is earnest and superb as Javed, with him being an absolutely charming, likable lead. Aaron Phagura is terrific too as the schoolfriend who exposes Javed to the Springsteen, while Nell Williams is charming and cute as Javed’s love interest. Even the smallest roles are fleshed out and given some depth, including
Dean-Charles Chapman as Javed’s white friend who’s obsessed with synth and doesn’t get Bruce, while Rob Brydon has a hilarious cameo as his dad, pulling out and nailing a Springsteen impression of his own. Hayley Atwell also co-stars as Javed’s English teacher, who encourages him to pursue his dream of being a writer. Everyone here from the biggest roles to the smallest, is superb.
While “Blinded by the Light” is a deeply personal story, it also represents a slice of history. Set in England during Thatcher’s reign, with the nation succumbing to the rise of unemployment, creating a depression that’s reignited the National Front, a neo-Nazi organization that’s determined to drive perceived enemies, including Pakistanis, out. Jobs are drying up, hope is dissipating, and Javed is trapped in the middle of a domestic situation he no longer has the patience for, facing a life where he has zero control over his personal expression, even being groomed for an arranged marriage. It’s this collision of Javed’s household disturbance, his personal life and the national alarm that drives the plot of “Blinded by the Light”.
The soundtrack of Springsteen tunes, has Chadha periodically using printed lyrics to underline the connection generated between the artist and Javed’s soul. The first song he listens to that “pops his Bruce cherry” is “Dancing In The Dark”. He is so taken aback by it, that it motivates him to rewind his Walkman to the beginning of the song, soaking up every word of the rock n roll poets words.
If “Blinded by the Light” has any downfalls is that Chadha’s film could have used some trimming, but it’s loaded with charm and always attentive to the heart. The movie does reach it’s peak with a mid-movie presentation of “Born to Run” as the entire four and a half minute song is played in it’s entirety as a montage of Javed and Roops commandeer a college radio station to play the forbidden track. They are shown sprinting out into the world singing the song at the top of their lungs. This joy of a sequence inspires song and dance in the aisles as it’s absolutely worth the price of admission alone.
“Blinded by the Light” strikes right to the heart of why Springsteen’s work has had such an impact that spans many cultures. In contrast to this summer’s other music-themed Beatles fantasy “Yesterday”, which barely communicated why a world without the Beatles would be any different at all. “Blinded By The Light” is a far more soul-stirring, uplifting film and it’s utterly joyous.
Director Gurinder Chadha magnificently shows the connection and impact an artist and their music has on someone’s life. It’s one of the finest movies made about a true fandom and a hugely joyous celebration of how art can enrich your life and give you courage you never thought you had.
GRADE: ★★★★☆(4 out of 5)