For the uninitiated the music of Bruce Springsteen could easily be adapted into any number of films. Pick a random Springsteen song and chances are it will tell a narrative. Of guys in cars, love lost, highways that disappear into the distance, injustice and everything true blue Americana.
It is somewhat surprising then to find a film focussing on Springsteen’s tunes in set in Luton. But that is exactly what Blinded By The Light is, and it works in ways it really shouldn’t.
In 1987 Javed (Viveik Kalra) is an aspiring writer. But his strict father would rather Javed focussed on studies that guarantee an income. With confidence in his writing shook, Javed meets Roops (Aaron Phagura) who lends him a Bruce Springsteen tape (if you’re too young to know what that is, go Google). And suddenly Javed’s world changes, finally, someone out there, albeit across the pond and a rock star, articulates Javed’s plight in life.
There are clear parallels to be drawn between Blinded By The Light and director Gurinder Chadha’s other hit film Bend It Like Beckham. Both see minority individuals living in oppressive households find liberation through a global icon. For some it will feel like a re-tread but on almost every level, Blinded By The Light works.
Of course, it helps that it is based on a book that in turn is based on a true story. But what Chadha does so brilliantly, and has for much of her work, is bring real heart to proceedings. Watching Javed discover Springsteen’s lyrics on a stormy night, the words appearing around him, encircling him, wrapping him in their power is an utter delight.
Would it have worked with another artist? Say a Bob Dillion or a Madonna? Maybe, probably, but it doesn’t matter. Because Springsteen’s lyrics and songs become as much of the film as Javed’s journey and they are irresistible. For fans of The Boss this is a delight, for newcomers it may well act as a gateway drug.
Like Bruce Springsteen’s songs there is a working class sense of joy at the heart of Blinded By The Light. Yes, at times it’s all very predictable, a little too sentimental but in such a way as it is aiming to not be a feel good film as much as a feel sheer joy. And in a time when Brexit has the country divided, something Chadha smartly touches on in an aside rather than fully confronting, it is a film that is never less than wholly satisfying.
Like the music that inspires it Blinded By The Light captures an era, a sentiment and a sense of striving for more. A hugely enjoyable film that is never anything less than uplifting.