Cast: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Hayley Atwell.
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer(s): Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, and Sarfraz Manzoor
Runtime: 117 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros./ New Line Cinema
Blinded By the Light is another movie that came from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival that has been getting a ton of buzz since hearing about it at the beginning of the year. In an attempt to become a better crowd-pleaser than what Yesterday brought to the table a couple of months ago, it succeeded, because baby, we were born to run.
What’s the Story: Inspired by a true story, British-Pakistani Muslim teenager Javed (Viveik Kalra) is tired of living in his town in 1987’s Luton, England with his family that’s going through hard times, especially his strict father (Kulvinder Ghir). His passion in life is to become a writer as he writes poems and lyrics for his best friend’s band. After he discovers the music of the legendary Bruce Springsteen, it’s something that he never sounded before.
Right as I watched the trailer back in early May, I can already tell this was going to be something that will capture the heart, while also provide music from The Boss. The fact that it’s a coming-of-age story that involves music was already worthy of my attention. With a premise that had me smiling almost entirely throughout, Blinded By the Light is definitely one of the best movies to be released in 2019.
Director Gurinder Chadha has been around the film circuit for a while, as she’s helmed Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice, and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. With that, she should be getting every amount of credit for helming something that would fit into the decade of the 1980s. But what I came to appreciate it is that it didn’t feel like anything that came from a Hollywood studio, as it felt natural and moves smoothly like a nice song by your favorite band.
This is also a phenomenal script written by Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, and Sarfraz Manzoor, which was based on the latter’s memoir “Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll.” It’s one thing to be funny, and it has its humorous moments. But at its core is an emotional heartbeat that I didn’t see coming. Yeah, it’s predictable, but I didn’t necessarily care. Another movie that I would say that has a similar vibe is 2016’s Sing Street, another movie surrounding music.
I didn’t think I was going to find Javed’s story to be interesting, but it turned out to be a personal tale about finding yourself in a messed up world when cultural differences are at hand. He and his family are living in a time where racism still exists, especially when it was terrible around the ’80s and Pakistani’s aren’t exactly welcome in the best fashion.
Newcomer Kalra’s performance as Javed is one of the most relatable characters I’ve seen all year. This is a role that felt real and carries a lot of promise for anybody who has been in his place back then and currently. Talk about a breakout role that doesn’t get forgotten about when the year ends.
The rest of the supporting cast are also well-worth mentioning, including Kulvinder Ghir as Javed’s father, Nell Willams as Eliza, Javed’s girlfriend, Aaron Phargua as Roops, another Pakistani teen who gives Javed the Springsteen tapes, Game of Thrones‘ Dean-Charles Chapman as Matt, Javed’s childhood friend and Hayley Atwell as Javed’s teacher wanting him to show off his poetry.
I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore fan of Springsteen, but he has some classic tunes that are amazing. After walking out of this, his music also spoke to me. Because of Blinded By the Light, I almost made me fall for his music. The music plays an important role in the story that works in ways that didn’t feel forced. Lyrics appear when around Javed’s surroundings when it’s capturing his soul. “Born to Run” just became a favorite song from his just from this amazing sequence set to the song that made me feel so alive.
If there was anything to nitpick, it was starting to drag just slightly during the second act. But other than that, this is the kind of film that needed to be made just to make every single person leaving the theater feel more optimistic about ourselves.
What’s easily the biggest takeaway from Blinded By the Light is that it’s all about wanting to chase your dreams. Javed’s passion is to become a writer, and that’s what I kind of what my dream has been in wanting to become a film critic. Like my reviews, I’ve posted on here, and what Javed said about his poems, “I know they aren’t the best, but they’re mine.” Whether this makes you feel inspired to go after a certain career, confessing your feelings to someone, standing up for yourself, or wanting to make a difference in your life, it’s all up to you to change the way you are, for better or worse.
And when it comes to music, every person around the world can fall in love with an artist that feels close to them, even the bad ones. Maybe that’s why I care much about the rock genre than almost anything else. For a Pakistani to love Springsteen that much says a lot about how we’re able to connect to different aspects of music, even if it’s out of the ordinary to like them.
Believe me, if you’ve been wanting a film that makes you feel inspired, Blinded By the Light is that one film this summer that needs to be seen by everyone who ever felt like a nothing or just wants to feel uplifted. There’s a lot of enjoy about this, and I wish Warner Bros. did more marketing for this.