I’m a devoted Springsteen fan. I’ve seen him in concert several times, recently spent a boatload of cash to see him on Broadway – twice – and easily recall popping a ‘Born in the USA’ cassette tape in and out of my Sony Walkman throughout the mid-1980s. So when it comes to the film Blinded by the Light, I totally get it. The Boss – and this cinematic tribute to his music, message and influence – both rock.

The film tells the story of Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teenager of Pakistani descent who finds courage and inspiration in the working-class music and lyrics of Springsteen at a time when he’s feeling stymied by economic, political, social and family turmoil in his hometown of Luton, England in the 1980s. When a classmate introduces Javed to Springsteen’s music, it’s as if the songs – including Badlands, Dancing in the Dark, The River, Hungry Heart, The Promised Land, Born to Run, and the previously unreleased I’ll Stand By You – are speaking directly to him. They help him better understand and navigate his life, embrace his talents as a writer, pursue the girl (Nell Williams), and challenge his strict father (Kulvinder Ghir) whose own world is turned upside down when he’s laid off from his factory job.

Blinded by the Light is inspired by a true story, based on the memoir “Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll” by Sarfraz Manzoor. The book captured the attention of writer/producer/director Gurinder Chadha, best known for the awesome 2002 inspirational drama Bend It Like Beckham (if you’ve never seen that one, check it out!). Chadha knew full well that Blinded by the Light could only come to light if Springsteen was on board. Lucky for her, he’d read Manzoor’s memoir and gave the film his blessing from the start – and more importantly, permission to use his music.

The quirky Springsteen angle is what sets Blinded by the Light apart from other coming of age films that cycle through culture clashes, family drama, teenage angst, strained friendships, heart, humor and tears… all en route to an uplifting conclusion. We’ve certainly seen elements of the story before. The family dynamic reminded me of religion and cultural sub-plots in Bohemian Rhapsody and The Big Sick. And there are parallels to the recently-released fantasy drama Yesterday that pays homage to music of The Beatles. Chances are, if you liked Yesterday, you’ll like Blinded as well. Both are entertaining and reflective in their own way, though Blinded is deeper and more grounded in reality, and touches on timely issues related to xenophobia, bigotry, immigration, and the pursuit of a better life, ala the “American Dream.”

Blinded by the Light is a feel-good film that delivers a pleasant mix of humor, drama, 80s nostalgia, present-day relevance and a pretty cool soundtrack. You don’t have to be a Springsteen groupie to appreciate the movie and its message, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Bruuuuuuuuuce!

One thought on “Review: Blinded by the Light”
  1. I’m not a huge Springsteen fan but still really liked the movie. It captures the teenage feeling of discovering music that made you feel like you’re not alone and someone else understands your life.

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