“Blinded by the Light” is a coming-of-age film with the music of Bruce Springsteen coursing through its veins and is easily one of the best films of the year, thanks to an undying sense of optimism and the how the film captures the evolution of teenage spirit.
The film follows Javed Kahn, played by Viviek Kalra, a Pakistani teenager growing up in 1987 England. Kahn is discriminated against by members of the extremist National Front because of his race and struggles to get along with his traditionalist father, played by Kulvinder Ghir. His only way of coping is through writing poems and articles for his school newspaper, but when he is introduced to the music of Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, he becomes a more confident person and tries to live his life the way he wants to live it.
Javed’s character development is fantastic to witness due to Kalra’s performance. Kalra perfectly captures the sensitivity of being a teenager while trying to prove that he’s not a boy but a man. He also makes some of the cheesy dialogue believable due to his passion for poetry. Javed, at first, tries to hide from everyone by wearing baggy, long clothing and sporting a mild-mannered persona.
As the film progresses, his clothing resembles Springsteen’s apparel with white t-shirts, sleeveless plaid shirts and a lot of denim. Javed also puts himself out there more often, which leads him to do grand things, including blasting the song “Born to Run” on the school speakers, going to New Jersey to see Springsteen’s hometown of Asbury Park and singing Springsteen tunes in public to get the attention of his crush Eliza, played by Nell Williams.
The relationship between Javed and his father is a significant aspect of the film’s plot and is the heart of the story, as well as the main source of conflict. Javed’s father isn’t a villain; he just wants what is best for his son, like most parents do, and Javed is merely acting out because he feels he isn’t given enough freedom and choices. Neither side is wrong, and the pair’s journey toward a common understanding is what makes the film so compelling.
Both Javed and his father’s emotional conflict is portrayed in a realistic manner between the two actors and as the conflict progresses, the audience will want, more than anything, to see the pair work out their differences.
Springsteen is a legend of the music industry with 20 Grammy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Award, so it only makes sense that the soundtrack, featuring many of The Boss’ greatest tracks as well as some deep cuts, is fantastic. Every song is not only entertaining to listen to, but also progresses the story and ties into Javed’s life. The titular track plays a heavy role during the film’s climax and creates a heartwarming finale because of how the lyrics reflect the struggles Javed faces.
Music biopics have been popular for a long time with films like “Walk the Line” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” garnering critical and commercial acclaim. However, a recent trend has been crafting stories around the music of a particular artist with recent examples including “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” and “Yesterday.” But while all of these films told grand stories relating to the music of a certain artist, “Blinded by the Light” chooses to tell a much more grounded story with characters that feel like real, authentic people.
“Blinded by the Light” is a teenage tale that combines typical young adult woes with an eternal element of wonder. It may be cheesy at times, but the story, characters and messages of following your passions and remembering who you are make admission to this film one of the best cinematic decisions of 2019.