Blinded by the Light (2019)

Blinded by the Light
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer: Sarfraz Manzoor, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges
Based on: Sarfaz Manzoor’s memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll
Cast: Viveik Kalra, Aaron Phagura, Nell Williams, Dean-Charles Chapman, Kulvinder Ghir, Nikita Mehta, Meera Ganatra, Tara Divina, Rob Brydon, David Hayman, Hayley Atwell
Seen on: 28.8.2019

Content Note: (critical treatment of) classism, racism

It’s 1987 in England and Javed (Viveik Kalra) doesn’t really know where he belongs. He feels stifled in his family, especially by his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), but also doesn’t feel like he has that much in common anymore with his childhood friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman), although he still writes lyrics for Matt’s band. When Javed starts a new school, he finds new friends though – activist-hearted Eliza (Nell Williams) and Roops (Aaron Phagura), the only other British-Asian kid in school. Roops introduces Javed to Bruce Springsteen – an eye-opening experience for Javed that changes everything for him.

Blinded by the Light is a really nice film that manages to combine a light-hearted coming-of-age story with serious issues like classism and racism without short-selling either. Sometimes it’s a little too conventional, but I enjoyed it.

The film poster showing Javed (Viveik Kalra) mid-jump in front of a orange-and-white striped background, reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA album cover.

Blinded by the Light works perfectly. The pacing is spot-on, the film knows when to be emotional, when to be funny, when to be serious. That is why it can combine the lightheartedness of a comedy with the topics of a social issue drama and package it all into a music film that very nicely incorporates Springsteen’s music, partly even bringing the lyrics on screen directly.

With all of this going on, the fact that they fall back on movie-tropes a little too much and give us standard characters like the “supportive teacher” (Hayley Atwell), is easy to understand and to forgive. But it’s noticeable.

Roops (Aaron Phagura), Eliza (Nell Williams) and Javed (Viveik Kalra) running from their school building.

More importantly, though, it is funny and emotional, taking you right along for Javed’s story. It’s also really well-acted, with Kalra doing the heavy lifting despite very little acting experience. But I also enjoyed the other performances in the film – it’s just really well-rounded.

I did regret that we got very little information about what the author and inspiration for the film was up to nowadays. Is he still writing? I would have liked it if the epilogue had gone into more detail here. That being said, if that’s one of two complaints about the film (the other being its sometimes-tropiness), then I guess I don’t really have anything to complain about at all. I just enjoyed it.

Javed (Viveik Kalra) at a fleamarket wearing his headphones.

Summarizing: really cute and fun.

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