Blinded by the Light is a near perfect way to reinvent an artist’s work for a new audience- it’s completely specific to a unique experience, and the soundtrack in of itself is not really what the story is about. The film is not only set to the songs of Bruce Springsteen, but rooted in his teachings, but that being said, its not just about Springsteen- it’s about Javed, and how “The Boss” kickstarted his journey of self discovery. The joy of the film is that whether your a Springsteen fan or have never heard his music, the idea of becoming inspired and making changes within your life is something anyone can relate to- Javed’s experience involved finding his voice as a writer and finding a balance within the traditionalism of his community.
Javed (Viveik Kalra) lives in Luton, England, and struggles as he starts at a new school- there aren’t people that look like him, he doesn’t feel welcome as he tries to explore his writing, financial issues threaten his family, and he feels left out as his parents’ traditionalism prevents him from partaking in social events with people his age. As his family becomes hard pressed for money and growing bigotry and xenophobia threaten his community, Javed fears that his future will never fulfill him, but a fateful encounter introduces Javed to the music of Bruce Springsteen. For once in his life, Javed feels like someone listens to him.
The parallels between The Boss’s messages and Javed’s life are clear; The Boss isn’t neccessarily the answer to everything, and the film is clear to show how all types of music and art can inspire people, but for Javed, this is what inspires him to talk about the things that are important to him. The depiction of his conflict with his parents is very well handled- we completely understand why they stick to their values, but we also understand Javed’s frustration as he wants to be accepted by his school community. The depiction of the bigotry Javed faces is also well done; xenophobia has many faces and appears in different ways, and the constant fear of being insulted or injured fuels the desperation that Javed feels.
There’s also just a gleeful corniness to the way the film incorporates the music; Javed’s first experience hearing “Dancers in the Dark” is a rightfully bombshell moment for him- the film visualizes lyrics in order to make it clear how they relate to this story. From fighting bullies to finding first love to rebelling against the school DJ, the film expertly finds all the right places to use the music to progress the story. Even if it plays out in an idealistic and borderline cheesy way, there’s nothing inauthentic about the characters themselves- we feel the raw energy that these songs have, and we see the extent to which these iconic words have made Javed happier and more optimistic.
I have to give a lot of credit to Viveik Kalra for his performance; even though Javed makes mistakes and is often too earnest for his own good, his optimism and sincerity is infectious. Truly, his performance is what makes the film work, and the film’s best scene (a sequences towards the end when Javed gets to address his family in plain language) is notable because its based on Bruce’s music, but its Javed’s words. It’s this message that the film is keen to embrace; drawing inspiration from the great artists that speak to you, but creating your own story. Grade: B+