I was thirteen years old the first time I truly experienced a Bruce Springsteen song. I don’t just mean listening to it... I mean sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car while she and my uncle sang Thunder Road at the top of their lungs. He rolled down the damn passenger seat window and everything. Witnessing the passion that single song set inside my uncle from start to finish was something I’ll carry with me forever. I had never seen someone with that much love for a song as I’ve felt with my favorite songs at the time. Ever since then I have been a fan of The Boss. Blinded by the Light will likely bring you back to the time you first heard him as well.
Gurinder Chadha is amazing, and I will watch anything she directs; yes, that includes Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging, so don’t judge me. Chadha takes the most important messages of the story and makes sure they’re presented in a strong, straight-forward way. It’s a movie about the first time someone hears a song and the soul wave it takes them on to relieve them of their current struggles. It really captures all the fun parts of the Springsteen bops without making the movie just about the songs. With that, she also wants us to understand what it was like for a South Asian family to live in a Cold War-era England. This isn’t a film where they subtly hint at the blatant racism the family experiences and shuffle along. It brings you right into the grim reality alongside them. Those parts are brutal, honest, and left my heart aching many times. Overall, Chadha did a beautiful job.
The film is based on the book by Sarfraz Manzoor titled Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll. He was also part of the script writing alongside Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges. The story in the film focuses on Javed navigating through his hardships as he transitions into adulthood. Set in Luton, England in the late 80s, he lives with his parents, originally from Pakistan, and his two sisters. With the day to day awful racist encounters his family endures while also working hard to make ends meet, Javed seeks out to be a better writer despite his father Malik’s harsh disapproval. With the help of new friends Roops, Eliza, and his walkman, Javed discovers the power of music through the tunes and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen.
I want to assume there is a longer cut of this film somewhere. The film is rather too long in my opinion, but I feel like there was some stuff I was jipped. While we pal around with pointless scenes with whiny Matt, we could have been focusing on other stuff. For instance, Javed and Roops go all the way to New Jersey for a writing conference. We see them visit the hometown of The Boss, but I feel like the conference was just as important for Javed. I also wish we would have gotten a tiny snippet of Yasmeen’s wedding day to combat the brutality of the protest scene. Overall the plot is fine, it just felt a little all over the place at times.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The whole cast couldn’t have been more fulfilling. Vivek Kalra is brilliant as Javed. His overall pacing, charm, and delivery of vulnerability gave life to this character that I will never forget. Kulvinder Ghir plays Javed’s father Malik with great intention and care, which complimented VIvek’s performance seamlessly. Nell Williams plays Eliza, Javed’s spunky activist love interest while Aaron Phagura is Javed’s new enthusiastic pal Roops. The three of them have really colorful chemistry. I wish we could get a spin off show just about them.
Roops is my favorite character next to Javed. I’m glad he fills the role of friendship for Javed that Matt clearly does not fulfill for him. I don’t really understand the point of his childhood friend Matt other than for Javed to realize they’ve grown apart. But it isn’t really attached to the story in any way since we don’t get their sense of friendship at all from the start. Roops gives Javed the Bruce tapes. He is there with him when he visits America. He SINGS along with Javed. He shows an immense amount of support for Javed. I can’t think of a better friend in a movie, to be honest.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
This soundtrack is so much fun. Not only do we get showered in Springsteen wonders, but we also get a little bit of the Pet Shop Boys and a-ha. Sprinkled in the mix are some contemporary instrumental pieces by the amazing A.R. Rahman (see 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire). I think my favorite sound nugget is when Javed goes with his sister Shazia to the club and drowns out the house music with his walkman for him to dance to.
One of the most fun elements of the film is when the lyrics float around while Javed listens to the cassette tapes for the first time. Watching his reaction to the certain lyrics popping up on the screen and dancing around him was excellent. I wasn’t sure from the trailer if I was going to like it for fear it was going to turn out like a Kid Songs sequence, but that is hardly the case. Later on, he goes outside and the lyrics are plastered on the wall behind him as if on a projector. It was a really artsy film moment that made me smile. I’d be lying if I said I never walked around my neighborhood as a kid pretending I was in a moody music video with my headphones in.
There is one thing I do have a tiny beef with, and while I’m not sure if this was an issue in direction, or editing, or both, it was a scene where Javed serenades Eliza in the middle of a flea market. It was just awkward. Not in a way that makes me feel awkward personally because I’m… well, awkward, but it ends so abruptly and doesn’t give the girl enough time to show her reaction to this over the top gesture.
If you’re not the biggest Bruce Springsteen fan but you remember what it was like to unlock the Pandora’s box of a musical artist you instantly fell in love with, you’ll probably feel this film on many levels. If you are a big fan of Bruce, then it’s about time you get your butt to a theater! This film is a great testament to how far music can touch others universally, all from various walks of life. I think it’s safe to say that a movie like this has been long overdue, but I also can’t think of a better time for it to step into the light.