'Blinded by the Light' sets uplifting coming-of-age tale to Bruce Springsteen songs

Article Image

'Blinded By The Light' director Gurinder Chadha ('Bend It Like Beckham') and author Sarfraz Manzoor recall their fateful encounter with Bruce Springsteen.

Posted: Aug 21, 2019 4:40 AM
Updated: Aug 21, 2019 4:40 AM

Anyone who has sung along to a Bruce Springsteen song will find a lot to like in "Blinded by the Light." But director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha ("Bend It Like Beckham") has much more on her mind in this uplifting tale, which offers a timeless and resonant look at the immigrant experience through the filter of the UK in the 1980s.

Inspired by a true story, the film focuses on Javed (Viveik Kalra, in a remarkable performance by a young actor essentially plucked from drama school), the 16-year-old son of Pakistani immigrants chafing under the control of his domineering father (Kulvinder Ghir). Fond of writing poetry, Javed's whole existence is turned upside down when he's introduced to Springsteen's music, as the lyrics pour out of his head and into his soul as they unfurl across the screen.

"It's like Bruce knows everything I've ever felt," Javed marvels, popping a cassette into his portable player, which brands the year "1987" on the movie about as well as anything can.

In most respects, Javed's is a classic tale of a youth chafing against the traditions of his family. But "Blinded" manages to zero in on a particular moment in British history -- as unemployment soared and white nationalism flourished, leading to racial epithets and scrawled "Go home" graffiti directed at the Pakistani community -- while evoking uncomfortable thoughts about what's transpiring today, in America as well as Europe.

Based on a memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor, who shares script credit with Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges, the project has a great deal in common with "Beckham" in the cultural issues it explores, and using a high-profile figure to illuminate the longing of a teen rebelling against what's expected of him.

At times, it does seem as if the writers have strung together a roster of coming-of-age movie clichés, including the caring teacher (Hayley Atwell) who recognizes Javed's talent, prods him to write and champions his cause. But at the occasional moment when the movie begins to feel clunky, it suddenly explodes into buoyant, infectious renditions of Springsteen hits like "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" -- not as a jukebox musical, exactly, but in flights of fancy that blur into Javed's fertile imagination.

The key, ultimately, is that Springsteen's music triggers an awakening, one that emboldens Javed to defy his father's edicts, brave speaking to a girl he likes (Nell Williams) and contemplate who he truly is. Yet the movie also has considerable compassion for its supporting characters and incorporates nifty touches involving peripheral ones, such as an unassuming neighbor who takes an interest in Javed's work.

Other than the Springsteen connection (and the Boss blessed the effort by granting the producers extensive use of his songs), everything about the movie has a small-boned, independent sensibility, the kind that often struggles to lure people out to the theater. On the plus side, another film that combines music and nostalgia, "Yesterday," has been one of the, well, unsung heroes of the summer.

Whether it's on a large screen now or a small one later, "Blinded by the Light" represents such a sweet, easy-to-relate-to story that it deserves to be seen, at the least, by anyone who has shown a little faith that there's magic in the arts -- either in music, or a darkened theater.

"Blinded by the Light" premieres Aug. 16 in the US. It's rated PG-13 and is being released by Warner Bros., like CNN, a unit of WarnerMedia.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 14372

Reported Deaths: 693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds92024
Lauderdale69957
Madison68721
Scott62310
Neshoba56534
Jones52519
Forrest51137
DeSoto4936
Leake39512
Rankin3736
Holmes37324
Jackson30013
Copiah2854
Attala27715
Monroe25324
Leflore25030
Lincoln25022
Newton2504
Harrison2457
Lamar2275
Yazoo2233
Pearl River20731
Pike20211
Adams19015
Lowndes1828
Noxubee1696
Washington1636
Warren1587
Oktibbeha15010
Bolivar14911
Wayne1480
Jasper1483
Covington1411
Clarke13517
Smith13311
Kemper13110
Chickasaw12812
Lafayette1254
Lee1175
Carroll11410
Coahoma1133
Marion1129
Winston1051
Clay1043
Lawrence991
Simpson930
Hancock8711
Yalobusha855
Wilkinson859
Itawamba857
Grenada823
Montgomery811
Sunflower783
Union785
Marshall763
Jefferson Davis752
Tippah7111
Tate691
Panola643
Claiborne642
Calhoun614
Webster591
Amite561
Humphreys537
Tunica523
Walthall510
Perry492
Prentiss413
Jefferson400
Choctaw352
Stone300
Pontotoc283
Franklin272
Tishomingo260
Quitman250
Tallahatchie251
George201
Benton140
Alcorn141
Greene111
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16310

Reported Deaths: 590
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2085112
Jefferson167397
Montgomery144634
Marshall6609
Tuscaloosa63212
Lee52632
Franklin4986
Shelby47019
Tallapoosa41063
Butler39113
Chambers34024
Madison3154
Elmore3007
Baldwin2829
Walker2821
DeKalb2403
Etowah24011
Dallas2323
Coffee2191
Lowndes21610
Morgan2111
Sumter2106
Autauga1923
Houston1854
Bullock1763
Pike1730
Colbert1612
Calhoun1523
Marengo1506
Choctaw1487
Russell1480
Lauderdale1452
Hale1416
Wilcox1327
Barbour1301
Clarke1282
Randolph1247
Marion11711
St. Clair1081
Pickens964
Dale960
Talladega963
Chilton931
Greene914
Cullman880
Limestone860
Winston770
Covington751
Jackson742
Bibb711
Henry702
Macon672
Crenshaw662
Washington656
Blount531
Escambia483
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Perry360
Conecuh351
Coosa341
Monroe342
Cherokee332
Clay272
Lamar210
Cleburne131
Fayette130
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 70°
Columbus
Few Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 74°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather