Out this weekend nationwide is one of my favorite movies of the year thus far, the inspirational coming-of-age drama BLINDED BY THE LIGHT – directed by Gurinder Chadha (known for the 2002 dramedy “Bend it Like Beckham”).
From a screenplay co-written by Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges and Sarfraz Manzoor, and based on Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir “Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion, and Rock ‘N Roll,” the film tells the story of a teenager named Javed (Viveik Kalra) growing up in 80’s Britain while facing racism in his community, he is Pakastani Muslim, and a traditional upbringing in his home – with an unconventional passion to become a writer.
At school, thanks to a run in with new friend Roops (Aaron Phagura), he is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen, whom Roops describes as a “direct line to all that’s true in this shitty world.”
Inspired by Springsteen’s lyrics, Javed begins a journey to push past his limits, and limitations placed on him, to pursue his craft, indulge in a newfound relationship and find his sense of self – but those things do not come without a few growing pains and hiccups along the way.
“Bruce sings about not letting the hardness of the world stop you from letting the best of you slip away.” Javed
A line that definitely made me take note, and shed a couple of tears towards the end of the film, one that the director termed “a great right-of-passage story” and I am more than in agreement.
Chadra also shared in notes that the film is “about wanting to have a dream and thinking (it’s) not going to be possible because of who you are, what your background is, and what your parents might be thinking. But, what if someone throws you a lifeline (and)…you discover a path that leads to opportunity?”
It was amazing to note the relevance of Springsteen’s lyrics throughout the movie, and also recount their decades of impact. The film also has a great soundtrack, one that re-introduced me to the song “Lessons in Love” by Level 42 – a song I probably hadn’t thought about nor heard since the 80’s.
A coming of age story with a heavy musical influence, there is a bit of camp (I’m thinking of one musical number in particular). But the film outshines that with its lighthearted comedy and the more hard-hitting lessons that the main character perseveres.
In sum, “Blinded by the Light” is a universal story, with significant societal parallels to today’s times, that speaks to everyone and shines a light on what could be the best and worst of us. I rate it a 4 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
Until next thought, Thomasena
PS: several MMT winners were treated to advance screening passes and a Q & A panel moderated by noted Philadelphia critic Carrie Rickey with director Gurinder Chadra, actors Viveik Kalra and Aaron Phagura, and screenwriter Sarfraz Manzoor – on whose memoir the film is based. Check out a clip, where Chadra explains Springsteen’s thoughts on the film and the impact of Brexit on the screenplay. You can also subscribe to our new YouTube channel here.