Film Review – Blinded by the Light (2019)

Title – Blinded by the Light (2019)

Director – Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham)

Cast – Viveik Kalra, Dean-Charles Chapman, Kit Reeve, Rob Brydon, Hayley Atwell

Plot – It’s 1987 and British-Pakistani teenager Javed (Kalra) finds purpose and a new sense of perspective when he discovers Bruce Springsteen’s music, a discovery that horrifies his traditionalist parents and clashes with his upbringing.  

“Who writes songs about nuclear war and Thatcher anyway?”

Review by Eddie on 24/03/2020

Based on U.K/Pakistani writer Sarfraz Manzoor’s biography, Blinded by the Light is a film that’s going to be absolutely adored by long-term fans of The Boss himself Bruce Springsteen, but while Gurinder Chadha’s film has it’s heart in the right place, Light’s overly familiar delivery and plot holds it back from really breaking out as the surprise hit that it was mooted to be after a bidding war for the film followed it’s Sundance release last year.

It feels as though every single beat of feel good filmmaking is being ticked off here as Chandha follows teenager Javed through a journey of self-discovery courtesy of Springsteen’s back catalogue in and around the social turmoil of Britain in the late 80’s, from the grumpy foreign parents, out there side characters, musical montages, right through to the rather quiet and “is that it?” ending, Light never feels like it’s creating it’s own identity, which is a shame considering its ample material.

Following well-trodden pathways doesn’t automatically make a bad film and Light isn’t what you’d call an outright failure, as it would be hard for viewers to not find themselves tapping along to the huge array of Boss lead hits and Light is the type of film that will make you feel different types of good depending on how much you fall for it but with some unique cultural themes and real life threads flowing through its veins, you can’t help but feel as though Light could’ve created a whole new vibe for itself had Chadha pushed herself to deliver more inspired storytelling.

There’s moments in the film that feel like things are about to get a little more unpredictable or exciting, early moments where Javed first discovers the Bosses music and words jump alive on screen before our eyes or a marketplace singalong with a bunch of kindly strangers are such examples but outside of that, following Javed on his quest to break free from the bonds of his family and his culture are more a procession of necessities rather than a purely enjoyable feature film escape.

The other so-so element to this box-office dud is found in its casting choices, with Viveik Kalra making for a rather bland lead performer who fails to really capture our hearts or imaginations as he goes about his business.

It’s hard to know whether this is his fault or the scripts but he gets lumped with some fairly elementary scenes and dialogue, that isn’t helped out by a cast that fails to deliver a standout on screen charmer, even if recognisable faces like Hayley Atwell and Rob Brydon show up for little cameo like appearances.

In previous Chadha films like her breakout hit Bend it Like Beckham, this lack of magical casting was never a problem, making you wonder if Chadha slept on the job with her potentially grand film becoming nothing more than a tolerable parade of Springsteen hits without the emotional connection to make it soar.

Final Say –

A must watch for fans of The Boss, Blinded by the Light has moments of whimsy and delight but its insistence on walking the familiar path and dancing to well-known story beats holds it back from being the breakout hit it potentially could’ve been.

2 ½ denim jackets out of 5

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