Blinded by the Light Comedy

Review: ‘Blinded by the Light’ is a Reminder of the Power and Universality of Music

August 14, 2019Sara Clements

It's 1987. Margaret Thatcher is Britain's Prime Minister. Racial tensions are high as the National Front spews their anti-Muslim sentiment across the nation. Thousands are losing jobs, including the father of a Pakistani teen named Javed (Viveik Kalra).

The highway to London passes by Javed's town of Luton, and he often dreams of reaching that promised land. He never thought that would be possible until his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) gifts him with two cassette tapes of Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen. "Born in the U.S.A" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" become an escape for Javed, who finds relatability in the lyrics and a sense of connection to the artist, as though he's speaking to Javed and understands his innermost feelings. Javed is hungry to get out of Luton — he knows there's something happening somewhere and he wants to chase it. He wants to pull out of there to win and chase his runaway American dream, and through Springsteen, he feels that's finally possible.

Director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) uses Springsteen as a conduit to Javed's liberation and a way for him to better learn about himself, his family and his potential. Chadha provides great insight into Pakistani heritage and how Javed following his dreams clashes with his upbringing and traditional Pakistani values. Javed's father emphasizes that he must live for his parents, not for himself; but Javed wants to make decisions for himself and not have his father dictate his life. He wants to go to college, be a writer, get his own girl, and "the boss" gives him the courage he needs to do that. It's a tug and pull that's handled with sensitivity, and the home's tension is felt through the excellent cast that makes up this familial dynamic.

Unabashedly cheesy and a charming coming-of-age tale featuring a breakthrough performance by its lead, Blinded by the Light sticks to convention, while at the same time, being entirely authentic. It not only provides a fresh cultural perspective but a playful take on a realistic musical, such as when it shows bystanders' reactions to Javed randomly bursting out in song. But music is infectious, and everyone can't help but join in. In one striking scene, Javed stands in front of a campaign billboard for Thatcher whose message is about uniting Britain, but Chadha shows that song is capable of uniting people of different backgrounds more than politicians or anything else.

The film's narrative is bound to be relatable to anyone who partakes in current stan culture or anyone who has ever had that one artist whose lyrics reached into their soul, whose image adorned their walls, and whose album lived in their Walkman or portable CD player. We all got a hungry heart, and Blinded by the Light fills it with joy.

Blinded by the Light releases August 16th, 2019 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs. Its runtime is 1 hr. 57 min.

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