Whether or not they’re Born in the U.S.A., this is made for every fan of The Boss.
Forgive me if I’m being derivative, but this has been a cultural season for musicians and music fans in America, England, and Scotland. There was “Her Smell,” “Teen Spirit,” Wild Rose,” “Rocketman,” “Yesterday,” and now, we have “Blinded by the Light,” which loves Bruce Springsteen so much, that it choses to have a character who’s life gets changed by his lyrics and inspiration. Matter of fact, it’s based on the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who admires The Boss.
We meet Javed (Viveik Kalra), an English-Pakistani lad in the late 1980s, who wants to escape the difficult life he’s currently living in. He aspires to become a writer, but he believes his poems are so bland that even his English teacher (Hayley Atwell) gives him a C on his essay. Another problem is that his father (Kulvinder Ghir) is so traditional, that he thinks his boy is taking an economics class, and he gets laid off from the factory he’s been working at for years.
Then, one day at school, Javed meets a kid named Roops (Aaron Phagura) who listens to Bruce Springsteen on his walkman. Just as his life has gone down the tube, he listens to “Dancing in the Dark” and “The Promised Land.” That’s when we see the lyrics appearing on buildings, and when the lad changes his tune. He even gets the courage to show his teacher all his poems, and she tells him he should be heard.
There’s also a romance between him and his activist classmate Eliza (Nell Williams), and the only family member he gets along well with is his sister (Nikita Mehta). And there are moments when some people judge Springsteen’s music as outdated, given the 1987 time period, and the stereotypes aimed against the Pakistanis, including a protest scene.
I didn’t understand everything going on in “Blinded by the Light,” but I still managed to grasp its concept. It uses Springsteen’s music to bring out the best in people-to inspire them to face their fears and to take chances-while at the same time, it balances the cultures presented here. Ergo, it has its heart in the right place.
Viveik Kalra is honest, consistent, and brave as the kid who wants more out of life. He nails his role with such intensity. And you also have some emotional work from Kulvinder Ghir as the father, because of how he struggles to make ends meet, and how he makes his options as a traditional man. There’s a sweetness inside the connection and differences between the two.
And it’s also fun when we see the characters move and dance to the lyrics, while going with the beat at the level of “Baby Driver.” Not to mention a little visit to Asbury Park, NJ, USA. I liked how kind, humorous, and sincere the movie is, and I admired the characters written inside. Kudos to co-writer and director Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) for delving into all motives.
If you love The Boss, don’t miss it.