If you are British and haven’t seen Bend it like Beckham, 1. Why haven’t you watched Bend it like Beckham? And 2. Why aren’t you watching Bend it like Beckham? You could be doing it right now, but since you’re here to read my thoughts on Blinded by the Light, I suppose I can give you a pass. Director Gurinder Chadha has been a fantastic voice for the Indian population in the UK with most of her films centering around being pressured by two converging cultures. We see this common occurrence in Blinded by the Light but with a sprinkle of passion, charm and The Boss for good measure.
Blinded by the Light is an easy film you enjoy because of how positive it feels, but more important than that is how relatable it is. We have all been in a situation like our protagonist Javid (Viveik Kalra) where we have listened to music that completely blows us away, that makes us feel understood. Blinded by the Light perfectly captures the feeling of this moment with impressive visuals. It uses Springsteen lyrics as text and projections that must have come from a beefy projector, all while set in a storm. Its euphoria comes alive and it got me reminiscing of when I listened to Motorhead for the first time.
For a debut feature film performance, Viveik Kalra bursts into the spotlight with a performance that is full of charm and gutsy energy. His character Javid is a British/Pakistani teen from Luton with a passion for writing and a family stuck in traditionalist values, especially his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir). When he discovers Springsteen, he starts to lean towards working towards his dreams, which goes against his fathers wishes of working towards a paid job. What gives the characters more depth is their place in time as Blinded by the Light is set during Thatcher’s government. High unemployment, racism from The National Front (a far-right, fascist party) all of these things preventing Javid and his family from achieving what they want. These underlying themes are a matter of perspective, you choose how big and important these things are to the story. it’s almost as though you can choose how many layers this film has.
However, choosing too much can arise problems of its own. The film really wants to paint a big picture of the period, but it is doing so with a run time less than two hours. It’s a very small canvas to try and paint such a detailed picture. Luckily this isn’t too distracting from Javid’s journey and you can still enjoy it either way.
When it comes down to giving characters coverage, blinded by the Light on that point alone is a well fleshed out script. Each character you see in this film has their own sort of importance and relationship with Javid regardless of how much screen time they are given, where they are introduced in the story or how they impact Javid’s journey altogether. In Javid’s family, you can expect one or two surprises from them, whether it functions as comical or depth. One example being Javid’s sister attending a day-rave club so she can get forget about her family life and do something she enjoys, and she becomes an important figure in the film for a few moments.
It’s important that I had to mention Bend it Like Beckham at the start of this review because there will be people who will see the tagline “Director of Bend it like Beckham” and start to think up unfair assumptions about the film. Unfortunately, those unfair assumptions turn out to be fair as you could compare the two to the beat, making the film feel a little too familiar and predictable. They both explore similar themes, the characters have similar restraints, it is one of those things where when you start to piece it together, you can’t unsee it.
Although set up to be a blend of comedy and drama (dramedy), Blinded by the Light, at stages, starts to creep into full-blown musical territory with dancing and singing sequences that feel miles apart from its intended genre, making these sequences a little jarring, but not much is taken away from its feel-good attitude.
Also, I think it was just me in my screening that thought the Springsteen song choices were quite limited. There are admittedly, a lot of Springsteen the film can choose from, however, there are certain songs used that stress the same point or feeling the film has to make clear. “Born to Run” is mostly used to express euphoria while the song I most associate with Springsteen “Born in the USA” is only referenced in dialogue. Hearing the music is still a great sense of satisfaction, but this film shares similar frustrations with others like it (Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, etc.) in which audiences get frustrated when a certain song they like isn’t included as much as they would like. It’s a trouble that can’t go away, but one that can’t be viewed too judgmentally.
Although Blinded by the Light may feel like packing too much depth into a story that should have been relatively simple, but it still one of the more enjoyable films of the year, and what makes it so enjoyable is its well-written characters and the relatable euphoria of inspiration. Its serves to explore new possibilities in a world where possibilities were a hard thing to come by. You will be persuaded to follow this young man and his family all while hearing the lyrics of a man whose music wasn’t meant to reach out to someone like Javid, but there’s no escaping The Boss.