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Blinded by the Light
★★☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

Director/producer Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji on the Beach, Bend It Like Beckham, Viceroy's House) adapts the story of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s early life growing up a British-Pakistani teen in the working-class town of Luton during Thatcher’s reign in the late 1980s and how his discovery and love of Bruce Springsteen’s music shaped his life. The fictionalize Javid Kahn (Viveik Kalra) lives with his family and follows his father’s strict Muslim traditions, but yearns to escape the confines of his existence and become a writer. While most of his pals are grooving to the synth-pop music of the day, Javid gets turned on to the ‘70s and early ‘80s music of “the Boss” by his Sikh friend Roops (Aaron Phagura). Most of his friends and family can’t understand why he resonates so strongly with the older American songwriter, but to Javid, Bruce is a working-class poet, whose lyrics speak directly to his experience.

The movie (scripted by Chadha, Manzoor, and Chadha’s frequent collaborator Paul Mayeda Berges) is a feel-good entertainment that touches on substantive issues without diving deeply into them. It conveys the exuberance of youth and sweeps viewers up into its main character’s musical discovery. But even when Chadha superimposes the lyrics of songs directly on the screen next to Javid’s face as he listens, we never experience the transformational power in Springsteen’s words. The exuberant vibe of the music is well captured, but that’s true of so many movies about music. This is a movie about music, not a movie musical—and certainly not one of the dreaded jukebox musicals so in vogue these days. However, between all the dancing, lip-synching, voice-over, montage sequences, and hardly any scenes that last for more than 15 seconds, it feels like an extended music video, with the same endearing charms and major limitations of that form.

Twitter Capsule:
Toe-tappin' true story about how discovering Bruce Springsteen's music changed the life of a British-Pakistani teen living in Thatcherite '80s Luton, plays like an exuberant music video with all the charms and limitations of that form.

Directed by Gurinder Chadha
Produced by Gurinder Chadha, Jane Barclay, and Jamal Daniel

Written by Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, and Sarfraz Manzoor
Based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor
Inspired by the words and music of Bruce Springsteen

With: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nikita Mehta, Nell Williams, Tara Divina, Frankie Fox, Hayley Atwell, Sally Phillips, and Rob Brydon

Cinematography: Ben Smithard
Editing: Justin Krish
Music: A.R. Rahman

Runtime: 118 min
Release Date: 16 August 2019
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Color