Blinded by the Light review: Is this the feel-good film of the year?

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Blinded by the Light tells the story of Javed, a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in 1987 England. Amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the times, he writes poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father. But when a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels to his working-class life in the powerful lyrics. But, as Javed discovers an outlet for his own pent-up dreams, he also begins to express himself in his own voice…      

It’s been pushed as, ‘The feel-good movie of the year’. Everywhere you look – plastered all over buses, bus stops, train stations, you name it – ‘The feel-good movie’ poster is there. And I couldn’t be happier; director Gurinder Chadha’s name deserves to be everywhere. 

Chadha’s films were my go to in my younger years, Bride & Prejudice was a personal favourite (unashamed musical lover here). Even as a child, I was aware of the rarity of seeing non-white stories/actors leading the narrative, and loved that there was someone in that magic box I could relate to on some level.

And she has done it again in this big-hearted tale inspired by the real-life story of Bruce Springsteen mega-fan, Sarfaz Manzoor, who adapted his memoir Greetings From Bury Park: Race. Religion. Rock ’n’ Roll, for the big screen. 

Check out the trailer for Blinded by the Light below:

Set in Luton in 1987 against a backdrop of the tumultuous Thatcher years, poll tax unrest and the National Front, Blinded By The Light tells the story of teen Javed Khan (played pitch-perfectly by Viveik Kalra) who longingly looks down the M24 for escape to London. 

As the only son in a traditional Muslim Pakistani household he is pulled between living the life of any other teenage boy (he is desperate for a girlfriend) and an overbearing father who commands that, “Pakistanis don’t go to parties”.  

Grappling with rampant racism and unable to be frank with his parents about his aspirations to be a writer, he still manages to find people in his corner. From teacher Ms Clay (Hayley Atwell), to student activist Eliza (Nell Williams) and the big man himself, ‘The Boss’ Bruce Springsteen. If there is one person who totally gets him, it’s The Boss. When Javed first hears Springsteen through his Walkman he finally feels seen, heard and understood.

The musical numbers are catchy, but they don’t necessarily have you reaching out to add Springsteen to your playlist. Also, it’s not the most novel idea of the summer as there is another film floating about with distinct similarities (Yesterday anyone?). But this is a gooey, lovely film about a young man who dares to dream. You may not already be Springsteen fan, you may not leave a Springsteen fan, but finding a voice who really speaks to your soul through the turmoil of your teenage years is something we can all relate to.

And so, on that note, I implore you: don’t go for the Springsteen, go see a boy who dares to dream. 

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Blinded by the Light is in UK cinemas as of 9 August 2019. 

Image: Bend It Films

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Mayran Yusuf

Mayran Yusuf is a film critic who loves nothing better than a good scroll of @TheShaderoom on Instagram and a sucker for any drama that BBC flings out. Series link at the ready!

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