I watched the trailer. I thought to myself “This looks a bit cheesy, but has potential. Bruce Springsteen will probably make up for any cheese”. I was right and wrong and just generally unprepared for what I was about to experience.
Javed is the only son of a Pakistani immigrant couple in Britain in 1987. Struggling with the expectations and pressure from his parents, the hostile neighbourhood he lives in and his desire to follow his own dreams, teenage Javed learns to live life, understand his family and finds the strength to express his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Blinded By the Light is an uncomfortable watch, for a few reasons.
Firstly, Javed processing and expressing his emotions through music is the same level of discomfort you experience reading back over your teen diary entries. You cringe at how open, raw, dramatic and cheesy they are and wish you’d never been the person that wrote them – but they were still your truth at one point. I don’t know at what point in life, the teenage angst and irrepressible emotions become a distant and regrettable thing of the past, but this movie brings it all back. There’s a scene, akin to the angry dancing scene in footloose, where Javed listens to Bruce Springsteen for the first time and runs around in a storm – overcome by his new discovery. It feels like a perfect visual representation of the first time music really takes you over. For me, it was Supertramp ‘Hide in Your shell’, and this scene took me right back to the early 2000s and my first really ’emotional’ response to a song.
There were definitely a few scenes where the cringe was slightly too strong (Roops third-wheeling hard), but as my husband put it: “at it’s worst it was the worst, at it’s best it was the best”, it’s worth hanging in there.
A second reason it made for uncomfortable viewing, was being confronted by the open hatred displayed to Pakistanis on a daily basis. It makes me want to cry just thinking about certain scenes and what Javed’s hard-working and loving family were put through. I think the film handles and balances this content really well. The reminder that this is still the reality of how people treat each other and teach their children to treat others is sobering.
Bruce Springsteen’s music aside, watching Javed’s family going through hard times and Javed’s relationship with his father grow, is really where this film shines. I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But when my husband said “at it’s best it was the best”, those were the parts he was referring to. I definitely shed more than a few tears throughout the film.
I also have absolutely no complaints about the casting choices. Viveik Kalra is an amazing lead. I look forward to seeing him in future projects! Hayley Atwell is the perfect inspirational english teacher and Kulvinder Ghir and Meer Ganatra bring to life some of the most ‘real’ feeling characters I’ve seen in a long time.
The music of ‘The Boss’ is perfectly matched to each scene of this movie. New life is given to lyrics I hadn’t previously given much thought and it sparked a renewed interest in my Springsteen albums. Blinded By the Light is based on a true story of a hardcore Bruce fan whose life really was changed by his music. That intense passion is evident in the film and I will be surprised if you can leave the cinema without at least a little rubbing off on you.