Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Hayley Atwell
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Running Time: 117 mins
Blinded By The Light is a British film about a 16 year old Pakistani boy living a shy life in the town of Luton in the 1980s, however, after being introduced to the music of legendary singer Bruce Springsteen, his life takes an incredible upward swing.
Working in a similarly uplifting capacity to Bend It Like Beckham, director Gurinder Chadha’s most famous work, Blinded By The Light proves a pleasantly cheery watch, with a fluffy, positive story that, despite the odd bit of cheesiness and often ham-fisted secondary themes, does more than enough to make you smile from beginning to end.
Above all, that’s the main thing that this film wants to do: make you smile. Its story – a coming-of-age tale centred around some nostalgia and a meaningful soundtrack to the main character – is something that’s been really overplayed in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that a simple premise like this can’t be a real joy to watch.
Filled with energy and a real personal passion for its story throughout, Blinded By The Light grabs you with its endearingly dull portrayal of Luton, as well as a likable lead in the form of Javed, played by Viveik Kalra, and although it may not quite hit the emotional beats it’s going for with young Javed’s dreams of making it out of Luton one day, the small-town, down-to-earth vibes of the film are actually what make the film most enjoyable.
Couple all that with a delightful fervour for all things nostalgic about the 1980s, from Walkmans to big mobile phones – as well as all those little details about family during childhood, like having to push the car out of the drive when it won’t start – and you have a film that, as cheesy as it may be, is really easy and fun to connect with, something that works wonders for its entertainment factor.
In truth, Blinded By The Light doesn’t have the depth of better films in a similar genre. Even Bend It Like Beckham hits on more interesting themes in its core story, whereas this feels more like an exercise in nostalgia than anything else.
That’s more than fine for making you smile, and all those little details plus a great Bruce Springsteen soundtrack give the film great character and likability, but when it comes to getting a little bit more out of the story, Blinded By The Light doesn’t quite have enough to really impress.
Alongside its endearing coming-of-age story, the film attempts to introduce some more serious socio-political themes like life in Thatcher’s Britain and modern day racism that, while certainly important and fascinating in a historical context, can feel rather jarring in the middle of such a pleasantly uplifting film.
There are moments where those themes do work better – mainly in the final act where the film is willing to push the boat out a bit more with its own opinions – but in the middle of a story that seems to be so much more about growing up and learning about the world, they come across as rather ham-fisted and forced, which is a bit of a disappointment.
Also, in keeping with the film’s fluffy nature, there are elements of its story that are a lot more simplistic than is perhaps best. Unlike other films that look at the lives of South Asians in Britain like Bend It Like Beckham and the brilliant drama East Is East, there are parts of the depiction of the Pakistani family here that feel a little too much like a caricature, in the vein of what we see in more simplistic TV shows from time to time.
That’s not to say it’s not true to life, but the way that the film depicts the father figure in particular is a little too one-dimensional, with his overbearing rules weighing on his son’s life, and any character changes of his feeling unearned and even random as a result.
Overall, though, I had good fun with Blinded By The Light. A charming, uplifting and pleasant watch throughout, the film does more than enough to make you smile, and although it lacks a certain depth in its story, there’s some pleasant nostalgia, good music and a positive attitude right the way through, which is why I’m giving it a 7.3.