Co-written and directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham), Blinded by the Light is a new coming-of-age musical set to the iconic music of none other than The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Both endlessly fun and thoroughly heartwarming, this is the crowd-pleasing film we need during a sea of blockbusters.
Although the story of the movie is a relatively straightforward coming-of-age tale, the universality of its message and the unique perspective through which it is told make it feel extremely refreshing nonetheless. Based on the life of one of the co-writers, Sarfraz Manzoor, the film feels extremely personal. Not only is it a love letter to a legendary musician whom we all admire — it’s also a love letter to growing up and discovering your identity.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this movie is that it will manage to connect with you no matter your background. Even if you aren’t a British Pakistani immigrant, this story can still resonate with you because of the way in which it approaches its story. The film is about how art, particularly music, can speak to a person. Many people have had the experience of having a song feel like it captures their identity and struggle perfectly, and this movie will really connect with that feeling.
The character development in the film is truly excellent. Javed is a very sympathetic character, and although his arc is one that we have seen before, it has stood the test of time because we all have to grow up at some point in our lives. Javed’s father has a complex arc too, which helps us connect with both him and Javed on a more personal level. It is easy to get invested in their father-son relationship because it feels so honest.
Also surprising is that the movie doesn’t feel forced in its emotion. Coming-of-age movies come with the risk of feeling maudlin. When done properly, as it is in this case, a movie like this can make the tears flow without feeling like it is simply trying to tug at your heartstrings. There are multiple moments over the course of the film in which you may catch a glimpse of a tear forming in your eye, and even a few in which one (or many) may be rolling down your face.
The actors in this movie are truly phenomenal. The only members of the cast who will likely be recognizable to audiences are Haley Atwell (Peggy Carter in the MCU) and British comedian Rob Brydon, both of whom give very enjoyable supporting performances. The main cast rightfully runs the show, though, and they deserve to get attention as a result of their turns.
Viveik Kalra gives a phenomenal performance in his lead role. He has so much charisma and an amazing on-screen presence. You can’t help but love him and what he brings to the character. Someone needs to take notice of this guy’s talent and put him in more movies. Kulvinder Ghir is great as his father. The chemistry between the two actors is wonderful, and Ghir adds so much nuance and complexity to a role that could have otherwise been flat and emotionless. Although the summer release date and the fact that he is a relative unknown may hold the studio back, he has a real shot at Best Supporting Actor awards if he is campaigned correctly.
Of course, the thing that will draw a majority of people to this film is the soundtrack. And for all of you fans of The Boss, don’t fret, because this movie contains plenty of his music, and it is used very well. Perhaps the best use of his music in the film is “The River”, and you’ll be able to tell why when you see the movie. Other songs, such as “Born to Run” and “The Promised Land”, among others, are also used memorably
On a technical level, this film is much more ambitious than it ever needed to be, and it’s all the better for it. The visuals are really great. Both the cinematography and editing are used in a way that is unique and tells the story in an innovative way. For example, there is a scene in which the lyrics to a song being listened to by the protagonist are shown on the walls behind him. It’s a device that is so effective that you wonder why it hasn’t been used more commonly in the past.
Although Blinded by the Light may not be groundbreaking in terms of story, it is still one of the most effectively-written and ambitiously-made movies of the year. This film has something for everybody, and if you are able to connect with the characters, you will likely fall in love with Javed and his world.
Blinded by the Light opens in theaters on August 16.