independent

Sunday 15 September 2019

Springsteen soundtrack lifts earthy, coming of age comedy

Film review: Blinded by the Light (12A), 6/10

Viveik Kalra as Javed in Blinded By The Light
Viveik Kalra as Javed in Blinded By The Light

In 1984, Bruce Springsteen raged against his sense of isolation and alienation in the lyrics to Dancing In the Dark.

He crafted a pop classic from heartfelt self-analysis - 'I'm just tired and bored with myself'; 'There's a joke here somewhere and it's on me' - searching for a glimmer of hope in the fug because as he notes in the chorus 'You can't start a fire without a spark.'.

Blinded By the Light harnesses that raw energy as a toe-tapping soundtrack to one downtrodden British Pakistani teenager's self-awakening beneath the bright lights of 1980s Luton.

Adapted from Sarfraz Mansoor's memoir Greetings From Bury Park, director Gurinder Chadha's uplifting coming-of-age comedy is composed to familiar emotional beats including an exuberant sprint through town to the insistent thrum of Born To Run.

It's uplifting fare with a killer soundtrack of Springsteen's greatest hits, which provides a brisk tempo to the war of words between the teenage protagonist and his father, who sternly rebukes: 'You will always be Pakistani, you will never be British.'.

At a time when far-right politics seem to be striking a chord across Europe with disenfranchised voters, the intolerance and division projected through Chadha's lens is uncomfortably relevant.

Sixteen-year-old Javed (Viveik Kalra) enters sixth form with a mounting sense of dread.

He indulges his love of music by penning lyrics for best friend and neighbour Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman), who is in a band.

However, any dreams of writing full-time, which are fanned by teacher Ms Clay (Hayley Atwell), must be extinguished to be a dutiful son to his seamstress mother Noor (Meera Ganatra), and father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), who works on the productionline of the local Vauxhall car plant.

When Malik is unexpectedly made redundant, tensions within the family home explode and the pressure intensifies on Javed to marry and settle down when what he really wants to do is 'kiss a girl and get out of this dump'.

Classmate Eliza (Nell Williams) allows Javed to fulfil the first part of that dream but an escape from Luton seems frustratingly out of reach till fellow sixth former Roops (Aaron Phagura) loans Javed his Springsteen cassettes.

The lyrics inspire the teenager to challenge his father's authority: 'I don't want to be your son. I want to be more than that.'.

Blinded By the Light is a return to crowd-pleasing form for Chadha with strong performances and earthy humour complementing her unabashed affection for the characters.

Kalra is an endearing misfit, who feels a deep connection to Springsteen's lyrics, and the romantic subplot with Williams simmers gently.

The film sparks with energy and nostalgic period detail but doesn't quite start the fire demanded by the Boss.

Regardless, audiences will be dancing in the dark of local cinemas.

Gorey Guardian

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