Monday, August 26, 2019

Movie Review: "Blinded by the Light" (2019)

Director: Gurinder Chadha
Year: 2019
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

A British teenager of Pakistani descent with aspirations of being a writer finds himself wandering aimlessly through life in the small town of Luton, England. He starts to find direction upon discovering the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Blinded by the Light 2019 movie still where Viveik Kalra sits in his bedroom that is covered with Bruce Springsteen posters, pictures, and more
"Life ain't no Springsteen song." (Image Source)
Music is a powerful thing. Some songs can make you think, some can make you dance, and others can change your mood. The right music, however, can do so much more. The right music can change your life. "Blinded by the Light" is directed by Gurinder Chadha, who is known for making movies like "Bend it Like Beckham" "Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging" and "What's Cooking?" Chadha also helped write the screenplay with Paul Mayeda Burges and Sarfraz Manzoor, which is based on Manzoor's own book "Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll." The story is inspired by the lyrics of the one and only Bruce Springsteen. Javed (Viveik Karla) is an English teenager who comes from a very traditional Pakistani family. He wants to be a writer but has trouble finding his own path in life as he deals with the demands of his overbearing father (Kulvinder Ghir), who believes that a person's sole purpose is what he can do for his family through hard work. The year is 1987. Javed is stuck in the small town of Luton during a time of economic crisis under Margaret Thatcher, where the growing neo-nazi movement and anti-immigrant sentiments are prevalent in his town. Javed's life changes the moment he meets Roops (Aaron Phagura), a fellow Pakistani student who introduces him to the music of "The Boss," Bruce Springsteen, a rock artist from New Jersey, USA. Springsteen's popularity may have peaked a decade prior, but for Javed, his music transcends borders, time, and culture, and his lyrics speak to him on a personal level that will show him the person he is destined to be.
Aaron Phagura, Nell Williams, and Viveik Kalra run through the streets of Luton, England in a movie still for the drama Blinded by the Light
"It's like Bruce knew everything I ever felt." (Image Source)
BigJ and I aren't Bruce Springsteen fans, but we've got "hungry hearts" for music in general, and we understand the impact it can play on our lives. We're willing to bet most of us have had our lives altered, revamped, or bettered in some way because of a specific song or artist. The music you listen to can shape who you are and how you feel. It can even change the way you dress, adjust your attitude and mood, everything. These factors are very apparent in "Blinded by the Light." Teenagers walk around with bleached-out feathered hair, full-brim hats similar to what Boy George wore in the 80s, and some kids even have full-on Flock of Seagulls dos! A lot of the kids in Luton dress this way because it's fashionable or trendy, while others, like Javed, "want to change his clothes, his hair, his face" because Springsteen's music truly speaks to him. Upon attending the Church of Springsteen, Javed dons blue jeans, white tees, and sleeveless flannel shirts to embody his idol any way he can. Some of Javed's obsession and adulation can come off a little corny, but it's corny in the right way, and there's an underlying honesty and earnestness to it.

Springsteen's music actually changes Javed's life, not just his clothing choices. This film shows how some ideas and values are universal, how a blue-collar New Jerseyan was able to speak directly to a Pakistani-Brit struggling to find his own identity. Javed is a relatively reserved kid at the beginning of the film until he discovers "Born in the U.S.A.." Springsteen's lyrics about life, love, passion, finding your voice, fighting for what you believe in, and working hard gave Javed the confidence he needed at home, at school, and in his writing. Until Bruce's raspy voice and iconic words, Javed felt like an outsider at home, in his town, and in the world. Deemed "too British" by his father and a "foreign invader" by Luton's growing anti-immigrant/neo-nazi sector, he felt like he didn't belong anywhere. He would watch skinheads tag walls with racial slurs and spit in his face while telling him to "go home" despite being in the only home he has ever known (it's depressing how relevant these themes are today). He would so desperately want to tell those nazi punks to go fuck themselves and to not be scared of them, but he'd cower away every time. Bruce opened his senses, freed his mind, and helped him "shake this world off his shoulders." THAT'S the power of music.
Movie still for the 2019 film Blinded by the Light where Javed (Viveik Kalra) sees Bruce Springsteen's lyrics come alive on screen
"Bruce is a direct line to all that's true in this shitty world." (Image Source)
"Blinded by the Light" is a little bit formulaic and sort of slow-paced at times, but it strikes a deep emotional chord that can resonate with everyone across all lands, ethnicities, age groups, and religions. No matter where you're from, no matter what genre you listen to, music can save your soul and your life. We totally dug this movie. It provided us with a thoroughly enjoyable moviegoing experience, and we urge everyone to see it as soon as possible.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
RT Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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