In '80s Luton, Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a working-class teenager from a Pakistani background who discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen. He soon starts to grow the confidence to become a writer but this puts him on a crash course with his dad Malik (Kulvinder Ghir).
If at one point we didn't have enough coming-of-age films set in the '80s, we now can't seem to stop making them. Why has there been so many recently? My theory: the psychological damage that Thatcher and Reagan brought to a generation is still being felt today. The collective unconsciousness knows that things have taken a wrong turn and it is trying to help us pinpoint the exact moment. At least this saccharine soaked nostalgia trip acknowledges this to some extent.
Despite having more flaws than a Jenga tower, 'Blinded by the Light' works. The cast goes a long way to pick up the slack from stodgy scripting. Kulvinder Ghir especially holds the film together as his world-weary dad helps centre the drama and he deftly makes you feel sympathetic even if he is entirely wrong. There are too many characters for sure and it can be frustrating to see an entire cast in support of Javed when he spends most of the time complaining that no one understands him. Marcus Brigstoke, Sally Phillips and Rob Brydon make appearances and all three of them are great but underused.
It took a good chunk of time for me to settle into the film's groove. It sets up lots of themes, ideas and characters and by the time the credits roll they don't all add up. It is also an unnervingly earnest affair, like being trapped listening to your nephew's attempt at poetry and you come to realise that maybe buying him some Byron for his birthday was a big mistake. Often characters spout Springsteen lyrics instead of dialogue and not only is it entirely unnecessary it is clunky as hell.
It is a very interesting dive into parasocial relationships, especially the hero worship that can be so effecting in your youth. In some ways, the premise does feel like a leap of logic, he enjoys the music so much because Springsteen focuses on the nitty-gritty life of the urban working class. An admirable asset of his music for sure, but considering Javed is growing up in England during the '80s his choices for that content is not limited, in the charts or the record shop.
This all being said there is such a gleeful admiration of the music you become swept away in it. It straddles the realms of musicals and these moments are the stronger parts of the film. Like the music, they are overwrought and verge on the ridiculous. But it tackles them in earnest much like the way Springsteen does with his tunes.
It is sure to rub some people up the wrong way, those that can’t stand sentimentality are best to steer clear but if you are willing to be swept away in a torrid of class music and family dramas, you are in for a great little treat.