Title: Blinded by the Light
Release Date: August 16, 2019
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, and Dean-Charles Chapman
Review: As someone whose very identity feels very attached to his fandoms, it’s very hard for them to mess up movies like Blinded by the Light for me. Seeing someone discover something that so radically changes their life for the better is such a good feeling. Throw in some good performances and relatable plot and I’m in. This is that movie.
In a lot of ways, Blinded by the Light is a love story. I’m not talking about between a boy and a girl. (Though, that’s featured too.) I’m talking about a boy and his fandom. In this case, it’s the music of Bruce Springsteen. In the scene where he first listens to the tapes, you get the same joy as you do watching someone go on their first date. They click instantly. You can see the happiness on his face. And, it’s a really powerful scene. They really play up that his life has been forever altered in that moment and it works well. Then, you get to see why that was such a powerful moment for him. The music completely changes his life. He’s more confident. He chases after his hobbies. He gets a girlfriend. And he stands up to his family a bit. Springsteen’s music really transforms this guys life, so, of course, he’s in love. And it’s hard for that goodwill to not rub off on anyone watching.
The cast is also terrific. It’s full of mostly unknowns (at least to these American eyes) but they all do a fantastic job. Viveik Kalra, in the lead role, is especially good. He really sells both the happiness and the struggles that come with changing your life well. I would not be surprised if we saw a lot more of him in the future. His best friend and girlfriend also are charismatic as hell. There are scenes of the three of them hanging out and listening to the music that they love that make you want to run into the screen and party with them. But, what makes this movie really stand out is how terrific even the smallest characters are. From Kalra’s sister to his teacher (played by Peggy Carter herself, Hayley Atwell) to the radio DJ, every character feels like a real human being. I really applaud the writers for that.
It’s not all fun and games and loving Springsteen though. Having it set in 1980’s Britain with a Pakistani lead gave it a really unique perspective. There were a lot of scenes featuring really heavy racism that really broke my heart and, unfortunately, mirrored what’s going on in today’s world a little too closely for comfort. There’s a really powerful scene on the way to a wedding that I think is perhaps the most moving thing I’ve seen in cinemas for a while. There’s also added depth with the economy crumbling. Should he be chasing after his dreams when his family is suffering so much financially? Is it worth it to take a risk and chase after your own happiness? It’s really compelling stuff.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that this movie was perfect though. To me, it’s a little on the long side. It’s only a little under two hours but there are parts that felt like they dragged on. It felt like we were just going over the same thing over and over again when it came to arguing with his family. I get that this was based on a true story, so they probably wanted to keep as much as possible in. But, I think it could’ve used a quick trimming. Cut about twenty minutes of the repetitive stuff out and I think this would be a near perfect movie. As it is, it’s pretty damn good though.
TL;DR: Blinded by the Light is a very good, emotional story about fandom and how it can change your life for the better.
Score: 4 Stars (I liked it.)