★★★★★ | Zach Hester
I felt two things when the credits for Blinded by the Light, the latest film from Gurinder Chadha, began to roll across the screen. The first was unbridled joy that came along with a smile that I haven’t worn in a while; the second was an immediate, almost obsessive need to crank up Bruce Springsteen as loudly as I could for the entire car ride home.
The film follows Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), a British-Pakistani teen whose life is permanently changed after discovering the music of Bruce Springsteen.
This is the most non-musical musical that has ever existed on the big screen. The movie pays perfect homage to “The Boss” in every way. It sees the characters have these larger than life moments, sometimes with dancing involved, but stays away from having the characters outright cover Springsteen’s songs, which was probably a good call. It does make me wonder what a Springsteen musical would sound like though.
Viveik Kalra’s lead performance is the brightest star in a sea of shiny objects that I could discuss about the film. He’s vulnerable when he has to be and serious when the role demands it, but more than those things, you can just tell that he’s having fun in Javed’s shoes. The genuine joy on his face during the “Born to Run” sequence, my favorite of the entire film, will demand a smile as you sing along.
The scary part of the film is that it feels like it could be set today and still be relevant to the trying times around us. The political and cultural climate on display in 1987 under Thatcher’s rule over the United Kingdom doesn’t seem to be far from Donald Trump’s America. In fact, the way it’s portrayed is very similar. The hate felt against our Pakistani protagonist and his family in 1980s Luten, England matches the rhetoric of 2017’s white supremacy march in Charlottesville, Va. that resulted in the death of a protestor. There’s even a similar march in the film. The turbulence of the politics in Javed’s era is displayed with poignance that makes one wonder “how can any person hate another person just for being different than them?” I refuse to understand that.
The core of the movie is its message of “embrace your differences and ambitions, but never forget where you came from.” This message is one that resonates with me as I glide along my career path. Sometimes it feels like life is dealing you a piss poor hand and that whatever you are working towards means nothing (depressing, I know). In the film, Javed’s teacher (Hayley Atwell) encourages him to pursue his writing even after he professes that he “believes it’s crap.” She quips back with “well, it’s your crap. So keep working on it until it isn’t crap” or something along those lines.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this movie will be seen by enough people to be a true awards contender or become any sort of classic. Despite this, Blinded by the Light is proof that there is no perfect movie, but there are perfect moments to watch an exceptional film. Tonight, I had a perfect moment with this charming delight of a movie that I already need to see again. It’s a torchbearer for the kinds of heartwarming stories we need more of in our dark world.