I just came home from an advanced screening of the new movie “Blinded by the Light” and I am overcome & reeling. If you seen the trailer (you can watch it below) you know the story is about a 16-year old Pakistani Muslim named Javed Kahn whose life is changed by the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. The actual movie covers that premise and so much more. It is a feat of incredible storytelling and its impact will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
The film (directed by Gurinder Chadha and inspired by the memoir Greetings From Bury Park by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor) is set in the dead end town of Luton, England in 1987. Our protagonist, “Sad” Javed is living with his family, who immigrated to England from Pakistan years before. He writes, chronicling his daily activities in diaries and writing poetry that no one will see. He feels trapped by his very traditional family, having to give all the money he earns at work to his father. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. Javed seems lost and alone, but he has dreams of being a writer and wanting to do SOMETHING with his life.
Javed starts attending a new school, where he literally bumps into a person who introduces him to “The Boss of us all.” That “Boss” is, of course, the music of Bruce Springsteen. The scene, where Javed pops his “Bruce cherry” is both revelatory and striking in vision and scope. It perfectly captures the instant where Javed feels, for the first time in his life, that someone truly understands him and all he has endured. The image of Bruce’s lyrics surrounding and encompassing Javed as he listens to them is wondrous, depicting the power Springsteen’s music has to pull someone out of the utter depths of despair and give them hope to carry on. I personally have relived this scene countless times throughout my life, with music ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Joe Strummer to Phil Ochs.
From that moment on, Javed becomes inspired. He covers his room with posters of Bruce. He shares his poetry with his writing instructor, who believes he has great potential. He now has the courage to ask a girl on a date and he finally starts to stand up against his father’s strict rules. He also makes a stand against the blatant racism that he, his family, and friends experience from the local National Front Neo-Nazis. The undercurrent of racism is present throughout the movie’s run-time, ready to erupt at a moment’s notice, sadly mirroring the current situation we find ourselves in.
The film takes the viewer on a wild ride of emotions. Though billed as a “quirky comedy,” it does not shy away from real world issues (such as the above-mentioned Neo-Nazis, family pressures, loneliness & more), but these moments are intertwined with scenes of humor and pure joy. The scene where Javed, with his best friend and fellow Bruce fanatic Roops take over the school’s radio station, barring the door and blasting “Born to Run” is a pure act of Rock-n-Roll rebellion. The film soars with amazing sequences where the cast breaks into song and dance, transforming into a Bollywood-like musical. It is a lot to take in.
I could go on and on, but a written review doesn’t do this movie justice. At its pure heart, “Blinded by the Light” is a story about salvation. Personal salvation through music. It is to be SEEN and HEARD!
And you will not find a film with a better soundtrack!
Blinded by the Light Movie Trailer