There’s something giddily pure about Gurinder Chadha’s “Blinded by the Light,” a coming-of-age story about a young Pakistani Muslim boy growing up in late eighties Luton. With the country experiencing the economic and social turmoil of Thatcherism, Javed (Viveik Kalra) and his family must endure not only financial hardship but the hostility and bigotry of the local National Front. Javed finds unexpected salvation in the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen.
There’s something charmingly, beguilingly old-fashioned and anachronistic about “Blinded By Light Light” both within the world of the movie as Javed rejects the temptations of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson for the archly uncool New Jersey sound of Springsteen and the E-Street Band but also metatextually in presenting such optimistic and lovable characters, rejecting the gritty social darkness of its backdrop and telling a story of almost pure joy.
If you’re looking for depth of character, then you won’t find what you’re looking for here but this warm cross-cultural musical comedy offers exuberance and sincerity in abundance. Admittedly, for the first hour or so the background has a tendency to be foreground as the movie trips over itself in its eagerness to show you just how lovingly they’ve recreated 1987 Luton but once it finds its emotional groove, it transforms into a witty coming of age crowd-pleaser.
As likely to make you roll your eyes as dab them with a hankie, “Blinded By The Light” makes fantastic use of The Boss’ back catalogue to underpin its story of cultural rebellion and acceptance, assaying the effortless feel-good charm Chadha brought to “Bend It Like Beckham”.