It’s 1987, Thatcher is the longest serving prime minister in the UK under austerity and massive unemployment. In Luton, 17-year-old British-Pakistani Muslim Javed (Viveik Kalra) is an aspiring writer trying to find himself whilst right wing racist hatred grows and the pressures of his father’s version of being a Pakistani man weighs heavily on him. And then he discovers Bruce Springsteen.
Despite the serious themes expertly handled in Blinded by the Light it is a fantastically uplifting and optimistic film. Based on the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Mayeda-Berges and Bend it Like Beckham director Gurindha Chadha it is a hybrid coming of age story with musical and political currents.
Vivek Kalra in his film debut and a relative unknown is absolutely brilliant as Javed. He manages to portray the naivety of a boy becoming a man and all the complexity of struggling to understand where you belong in this world. He also pulls off some genuinely heartfelt musical numbers that verge on the edge of corniness.
Of course, The Boss (Springsteen’s nickname to the uninitiated) is a huge facet to the film and depending on your predilections this may be a help or a hindrance to your enjoyment. Springsteen’s lyrics of being a disaffected youth in a town you want to escape speak to Javed and help him discover what is important through his writing. The lyrics sometimes appear on screen, the music regularly swells up in key moments and there are even a few musical moments that feel like teenage daydreams. As a fan I loved the interpretation of the lyrics and the way they clearly deeply spoke to this teenager.
Credit should also go to Gurindha Chadha who has managed to wrap up so many complex and deeply personal story threads into such a fun, hopeful and exciting film.
I loved it.