Blinded by the Light – Review

Inspired by the teenage life of writer Sarfraz Manzoor (Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock’n’ Roll). Gurinder Chadha (Bend it like Beckham) delivers a film of warmth, affection and social commentary on 80’s Britain, that shines alongside its Springsteen rich score.

Blinded by the light reimagines the story of Manzoor, taking his passion for Springsteen and childhood experiences in Luton. While layering it with social commentary on Thatchers Britain, generational upheavel and a society where aspiration and place combine to create internal longing for change. Chadha takes clear inspiration from 2000s Billy Elliott in design and structure. Creating a film that celebrates Springsteens music, while providing a classic coming of age tale, of talent overcoming the boundaries of community, class and place.

Manzoor’s experiences are transferred to the fictional Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British Pakistani young man growing up in Luton during the turbulent social changes of 1987. Javed longs to further his ambitions to become a writer, spending his time working on poetry and song lyrics for his best friend, Matt (Dean-Charles Chaplin). However, Javed’s true ambitions remain stifled by his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) who controls the household, his Pakistani roots as the leader of the family clashing with a British society of generational change. Malik sees Javed’s future as a doctor or lawyer, but certainly not a writer or poet.

Defying his father wishes Javed signs up for sixth form college to study English Literature, while his father believes him to be studying law. The college introducing Javed to a wealth of new experiences and ideas, as he meets fellow outsider Roops (Aaron Phagura). A Springsteen fan who opens up Javed’s world to the writing and music of the ‘Boss’, unleashing his inner desire for change and confidence to enact it.

Set against the backdrop of 1980s National Front violence and racism, and a segregated community where ethnic minorities felt oppressed yet powerless. Blinded by the Light does not shy away from the social upheaval and change inherent in towns such as Luton during the 1980s. Its social commentary dovetailing with generational change and aspiration in migrant communities. Where many second and third generation children saw their lives as mix of cultures, the internal battle of their parental ancestry and British identity giving rise to family and social change.

It is here that Blinded By Light pays homage to earlier films like Billy Elliott in its pace, design and implementation. Billy’s passion for dance replaced with Javed’s passion for writing, Billys feelings of being trapped by his class and community, replaced with Javed’s family restrictions, racial oppression and town. Javed’s awakening to the words and music of Springsteen during the famous storm of 1987, a love letter to the over-spilling anger and frustration of Billy as he dances across the terrace walls and roofs of his Durham village. However, despite these similarities Blinded By Light maintains a fresh feeling, a truly joyous exploration of the power of music, words and self expression in the face of social boundaries. The music of Springsteen, blazing a trail of hope and aspiration that can’t help but warm even the coldest of hearts.

Performances enhance the warmth, energy and vibrance of Blinded By Light, building characters you truly believe in, while showing the depth and emotion of teenage life, parental conflict and the desperate need for change and group identity. The global power of music shining from the factories of New Jersey to the car assembly plants and emerging new communities of South Bedfordshire.

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