A Musical Thunder Road: Our Review of ‘Blinded By The Light’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 19, 2019
A Musical Thunder Road: Our Review of ‘Blinded By The Light’

“The Future is Now, Roll Up Your Sleeves and let your Passion Flow”

While Blinded By The Light certain has the potential to lean hard into some generic crowd pleasing territories, it’s also a sly piece of subversive social commentary that has the good fortune of being down right adorable and life affirming, and these days we need as much of that as we can get.

Inspired by a true story, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, Blinded by the Light tells the story of Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in the town of Luton, England, in 1987. Amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the times, he writes poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father. But when a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels to his working-class life in the powerful lyrics. As Javed discovers a cathartic outlet for his own pent-up dreams, he also begins to find the courage to express himself in his own unique voice.

Sure it’s a little simplistic in some parts and overlong in others but Blinded By The Light is a really earnest and fun testament to the power of music with some sly social commentary wrapped around a lovely little musical form as we rock out and fall in love.

The writer/director behind such crowd pleasing hits like Bend It Like Beckham & Bride and Prejudice returns here for what just might be her best and possibly her most accessible film to date.  Gurinder Chadha and her team; inspired by the memoir from Sarfarz Manzoor give us a musical experience that straddles the line between sweet popcorn entertainment and some genuinely deft social satire.

The setting of Margaret Thatcher’s austere England with unemployment through the roof was a perfect backdrop to find inspiration for a young man looking to find himself through the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen.  Sure there’s an unabashed earnestness and corniness to it all but who the hell cares?  It’s an exceptionally well crafted ode to music and how it can change our lives and a genuine sense of joy comes through every single frame of this film.

While it revels in the family dynamic of the story, there’s also an undeniable part of this film that we got an incredible kick out of.  Framing the struggles of a Pakistani immigrant family living in suburban England around the music and lyrics of a musical icon who is very uniquely defined as American serves as a nice little subversive touch especially in our modern world today which finds itself fighting back against the urges of isolationism and xenophobia.

Viveik Kalra in only his second on screen credit does manage to carry the load as the idealistic young Javed who wants to follow his dreams; something that is usually deemed too ‘western’ inside most Pakistani households.  He’s an affable young, charismatic lead and opposite Nell Williams (who you might recognize as young Cercei Lannister from Game of Thrones) we get a predictable but ultimately loveable story of young love and angst set to the music of ‘The Boss’.  The likes of Rob Brydon and Hayley Atwell add some colour to the overall affair, pitching in a little bit of gravitas and humor where needed along the way.

I’d love to say this is high art, but it isn’t…and it isn’t supposed to be.  Much like the music of Springsteen himself; Blinded By The Light is for the people…and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that.  No matter your race, creed, age or colour; there’s something in the music of ‘The Boss’ that resonates with us all.  There’s no need to be ‘Born In The U.S.A’ to know that we were ‘Born To Run’ down by ‘The River’ and enjoy those ‘Glory Days’, because they belong to us all.

 

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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