Blinded By The Light is an ode to Bruce Springsteen and a heartbreakingly sweet coming-of-age story all rolled into one. Set in 1980's Britain, all-American music blends with Bollywood style cinema, providing a unique blend for a familiar tale of a young boy trying to find his way in life.
Director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) has taken material that, in the wrong hands, could easily have proven trite, and created a character-driven, emotional map of teen angst. Blinded By The Light is loosely based on the memoir, "Greetings From Bury Park," by British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani immigrant living in the Bury Park neighborhood of Luton, a small town north of London, in 1987. Aside from normal, teenage pubertal problems, his woes include poverty, a stifled religious household, and racial discrimination.
His loving though oppressive father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), is stuck in the old ways and expects young Javed to play his narrow, preordained role in the family life, despite a new set of rules their circumstances present them. When he loses his blue-collar auto plant job, tensions rise, and the stakes increase.
Amidst the challenges of school, Javed meets a politically active, beautiful, young woman named Eliza (Nell Williams) and pursues his passion for creative writing with an encouraging teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell). He also meets a fellow Pakistani named Roops (Aaron Phagura) who comes from New Jersey and introduces Javed to Bruce Springsteen via cassette tapes.
Listening to "The Boss" changes Javed's life, both metaphorically and literally, as the words start to appear on buildings around him. While the music speaks to him and his problems, it also serves to liberate him and allows him the creative freedom to come up with his own original writing that he's so focused on.
Javed and his family constantly face threats, particularly in the form of racial violence and threats from xenophobic thugs who inhabit their small town; Malik, not immune to racial insults, often refers to Springsteen as a "Jewish singer" in a derogatory way. Not so thrilled about his son's discovery, Malik wants Javed to come to terms with what it's really like for their family to survive in this new world.
The racial tension that these Pakistanis faced back then not only stands the test of time, but it puts a clearer perspective on current racial tension found in various regions around the world.
Overall, Blinded By The Light is a satisfying story with a big heart. Whatever it lacks in punch, it packs in pinches of real life that paint a larger picture of what it's like to be an outsider to everyone around you, and then ultimately find yourself. The decision to watch it is a no-brainer for Springsteen fans and likely to be a pleasant surprise for those less committed to his cause.