August 8, 2019

CINEMA | 'Blinded by the Light' Belongs to Us—and Springsteen

"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true or is it something worse?"
Viveik Kalra Sarfraz Manzoor Gurinder Chadha Bruce Springsteen | Blinded by the Light

I ugly cried hard during much of Blinded by the Light. Bend It Like Beckham filmmaker Gurinder Chadha brings out the joy of discovering Bruce Springsteen's classic rock songs based on British-Pakistani journalist Sarfraz Manzoor's real-life story and memoir, Greetings from Bury Park. Mixed with those working-class New Jersey anthems by the Boss is a universal immigrant story of clashing with strict family ideals during economic turmoil.

Starring charming newcomer Viveik Kalra as a British teenager, Javed, the heartwarming tale dramatizes growing up as a child of immigrants and relating to Springsteen's works to deal with the racism and isolation in 1987 England under the stifling rule of Thatcher. Javed longs to be creative and become a writer frequently going against the repressed Muslim-Pakistani ideals of his father (Kulvinder Ghir).

The script, devoid of cynicism, by Chadha, Manzoor, and Paul Mayeda Berges understands Springsteen's lyrics so sublimely despite the period British setting surrounded by Pakistani characters. The heart of the story belongs to Javed's strong but often combative relationships with his father, sister, friends, and teacher.

Aaron Phagura Sarfraz Manzoor Gurinder Chadha Bruce Springsteen | Blinded by the Light

Full of cheesy schmaltz that very earnestly explores prejudice, class, creativity, and romance, its message of hope and dreams still very much resonates thanks to its sincerity. Characters have big speeches, there are cheery montages, and characters frequently explain in detail their actions or emotional motives yet Chadha's direction hardly ever rings false. It just works.

Blinded by the Light's key is how it captures artistic obsession during youth. Javed finds someone, Springsteen who's very much unlike him, that speaks to his own experiences despite their differences. The restained but upbeat musical sequences bring such a pure sense of joy. Filled with fine performances and scenes of self-identity and longing, the film gets its message across superbly.

Springsteen's life-affirming music and affecting stories filtered through Chadha, Manzoor, and Kalra so joyously capture the highs and lows of youth threw classic rock discovery. Despite some predictable movie flourishes near the end, Blinded by the Light really comes together remixing music, personal history, and familiar stories so sweetly.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Slate / The Playlist / Uproxx

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