Updated: Mar 6, 2020
While biopics about musicians replay songs and may spur a resurgence in air play, they often fail to explain the works' emotional impacts. "Blinded by the Light" fills that gap for Bruce Springsteen fans. Warmly crediting Springsteen as its inspiration and filled with his music, the movie never features him as a character. Instead, it focuses on sixteen-year old Javed, who suffers from being a teenager. That means he feels out-of-place, an outsider who nobody understands.
Of course, Springsteen's lyrics and voice convey similar emotions, and the film shows how music helps a young man find himself. Fortunately, Director Gurinder Chadha takes an inventive and varied approach to showcasing that music. Lyrics sometimes scroll across the screen. Characters might join in on a song or dance to it with simply choreographed moves that feel more natural than big production numbers. The director shows musical flair in ordinary situations, enhanced by a period setting in the 1980s which allows for feathery hair styles and wild prints on clothes. Chadha also works well with the story's dramatic elements, drawing distinct flavor from tensions in the English town of Luton and its increasing population of Pakistani immigrants.
Derived from a memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor, Blinded by the Light features a largely Pakistani cast with few faces familiar to western audiences. Viveik Kalra of the Beecham House television series makes an expressive lead, his face an open book revealing doubt, fear, anger, joy, and a host of conflicting teenage emotions. Springsteen's music underlines all of these sensations, emphasizing why his songs turned into worldwide hits. The New Jersey native wrote songs telling stories that fit many people, including a young boy growing up in a Pakistani neighborhood of Great Britain. So, though "Blinded by the Light" highlights Springsteen specifically, it also celebrates life in general.
This review was originally aired on 8/29/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/blinded-light#stream/0