Blinded by the Light Review by Tim Nasson

April 3, 2019

Blinded by the Light, a film that does more than just incorporate the songs of Bruce Springsteen into its docudrama screenplay, has more in common with last year’s musical smash Bohemian Rhapsody, based on the life of Freddie Mercury, than it does with this year’s fantasy docudrama Rocketman, which is based on the life of Elton John.

Inspired by a true story, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir Greetings from Bury Park, Blinded by the Light, is in capable hands with director Gurinder Chadha. She rose to prominence in 2002 directing the sleeper hit Bend It Like Beckham.

I saw this film at the beginning of April of this year, and in movie years that is a lifetime ago. The fact that the film stands out, still, all these months later, is a testament to its quality and feel good flavor.

It kicks off in high gear with the foot stomping Pet Shop Boys song It’s A Sin playing over the opening credits (yes, there is much more than just Bruce Springsteen in this film).

For reasons not explained, the protagonist’s name in the film is Javed, not Sarfraz Manzoor, (whom the film is co-written by and based on). Javed/Sarfraz is a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in 1987 England. Amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the times, he writes poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional (read old-fashioned) Muslim, Pakistani father. His father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), who mocks him at every turn, at the same time, is responsible for most of the comedic elements of the film. “Are you sure this Bruce Springsteen isn’t a Jew,” he asks his son, after finding out that his son is obsessed with The Boss’s music.

Blinded By The Light

On Javed’s (Viveik Kalra) first day back at high school after summer break, he is befriended by the upbeat Roops (Aaron Phagura), one of Springsteen’s biggest fans, who later tells Javed, “Bruce is a direct line to all that’s true in this shitty world.” Javed quickly sees parallels to his working-class life in the powerful Springsteen lyrics. As Javed discovers an outlet for his own pent-up dreams, he also begins to express himself in his own voice. 

The story spans only a year in the life of Javed, but we are treated to the Springsteen songs Dancing In The Dark, The River, Badlands, Cover Me, Thunder Road, Prove It All Night, Hungry Heart, Because The Night, The Promised Land, Blinded By The Light (of course), Born to Run and I’ll Stand By You.

After a while, listening to The Boss’s music on cassette tape isn’t enough. Javed must travel from London to Asbury Park, New Jersey to not only see where The Boss began, but to try to see him in concert (for the first time).

The real life Javed, Sarfraz, has been to hundreds of Springsteen concerts over the course of the past 30 plus years, and has met Springsteen multiple times. In fact, Springsteen gave his blessing to the author and director. Without it, the film would have never been made.

The supporting cast, including the diminutive Rob Brydon, (Roman de Vere on Little Britain, and himself in The Trip films), Ghir and Dean Charles-Chapman are all outstanding.

Blinded By The Light is one of today’s rare films that keeps you wishing it hadn’t ended when it does, whether you are a Springsteen fan or not.

Blinded by the Light Review by Tim Nasson

Grade: A-




Blinded by the Light Trailer

Blinded by the Light Review by Tim Nasson Posters and Photos

  • Blinded By The Light